Chuck Westgard and Greg Timm (below) and other organizers of the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championshop are bidding on the 2016 World Championships.

Surrey seeks support in bid for 2016 Women’s World Championships

Bid committee will be presentation to International Softball Federation congress in October

Organizers of the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship have their sights set on hosting an even bigger tournament in South Surrey – and now they need the community to get behind the plan, too.

The city is aiming to host the 2016 ISF Women’s World Championship after being named as Canada’s bid city back in February. The bid committee – headed up by Gregg Timm and Chuck Westgard – will find out if they’ve been chosen after giving a presentation to more than 130 delegates at the International Softball Federation Congress when it convenes Oct. 21-26 in Cartagena, Colombia.

Members of the organizing group will also travel to the Czech Republic to give a presentation to delegates, similar to the one they’ll deliver in Colombia.

Timm, the chair of the Canadian Open tournament – which, including its predecessor, the Canada Cup, enters its 20th running later this month – said the idea to bid on the 2016 event came came as a result of the tournament being changed to an “open” event; previously, teams had to qualify regionally to gain entry.

“We just thought, with our expertise in running our open tournament, and the fact that we’ve had a lot of these countries in our event previously – teams like Spain, Denmark and Indonesia, which would never otherwise qualify – we just thought, ‘we can do this,’” Timm said.

“We’re used to hosting teams like that.”

It’s not quite clear what other nations will be bidding on the event, though Timm expects both Chinese-Taipei and South Africa to be among the contenders. Considering his group’s experience, Timm called his bid committee “very well polished” in comparison to competing bids.

“We have a lot of depth in our organization,” he added. “From hospitality, to hosting, to things on the business side.”

The entire cost to run the event – including funding the bid process – is estimated to be $1.2 million. As such, the organizing committee is seeking community involvement in all types of areas, from corporate sponsorship and donations, to philanthropic donations from individuals, to engagement from service groups and others of that ilk who could help with hosting or accommodations of visiting teams.

“We are looking for assistance from people who have interest in community events, in supporting sports, in helping young women – and there’s lots of opportunities for these young athletes that come out of playing in a major event like this,” Timm said.

In-kind donations are also welcome, Westgard added.

“We’ve got to fix (Softball City) up a little bit, to the tune of probably a million dollars,” he said. “We’re going to work to improve the fields, pave the parking lots – stuff like that that can help us.”

Timm said the group’s motto, of sorts, is “a little bit, from a lot of people.”

“No help, no donation is too small – everything helps,” Westgard said.

If their bid is successful, the tournament would be held July 16-26, 2016, and would essentially take the place of the international women’s division of the Canadian Open that year; the Open’s youth tournaments would still be held around the same time.

And though the bid is not yet won, and the tournament is still more than three years away, Timm said he is already energized by the possibilities – and he’s not alone, he said.

“We’ve done our tournament for 20 years now, and it can sometimes get to be sort of a ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ kind of thing,” he said.

“But the idea of hosting a world championship is new. I’ve personally talked to people who used to be involved with the (Canadian Open), or people who I never could quite convince to get involved, and now they’re saying, ‘wow, that’s going to be fun.’”

He envisions the event not just as a top-notch fast pitch tournament, but as something more.

“We don’t just want to run a tournament, we want to run a party here for 10 days. We want a cultural event.”

In recruiting teams, Timm and Westgard said they’ve got people working to gain commitments from the usual fastpitch powerhouses – most of which have played at Canadian Opens before – as well as from countries in African and the Middle East.

“Places where females maybe don’t get a lot of opportunities for something like this,” Timm said.

“Teams don’t have to come thinking they’re going to win the world championships, they just have to come thinking they’re going to participate, be treated fairly, have a great time and be part of a community celebration.”

The largest-ever world championship was held in Newfoundland in 1994, when 28 teams took part.

“So that means we need at least 29,” said Westgard.

Anyone interested in supporting the world championship bid in any way can contact the Canadian Open Fastpitch office at 604-536-9287, or find information online at www.canadianopenfastpitch.com

Surrey North Delta Leader

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