Expecting to bring in more than 5,000 visitors to Prince Albert, the 2014 Canadian Native Fastball Championship kicks off on Thursday.
The 40th annual edition of the tournament will feature 65 First Nation fastball teams competing in five divisions as they vie for cash prizes of up to $12,000.
The CNFC comes to Prince Albert amidst one of the busiest years in recent memory for the city as far as sporting events are concerned.
This year, Prince Albert has played host to, among others, the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games, the 2014 Western Regional Midget-AAA Hockey championship, numerous provincial softball tournaments and the 2014 First Nations Winter Games.
On Feb. 28, Prince Albert tourism executive director Jayne Remenda, told The Herald’s Matt Gardner that the Winter Games brought with it a $2.5-million economic boost to the community and Sanderson expects the CNFC to do the same.
Sanderson estimated that the tournament, which has drawn teams from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, should bring anywhere from $2.5 million to $4 million into the city.
“Right now, every hotel room in P.A. is booked,” Sanderson said. “Every room, every hotel.”
The CNFC was last hosted in Grand Prairie, Alta., in 2013, when the West Bank Cardinals, Red Nation Jets, Sapotaweyak Cree, Four Direction, Kainai Tribe, New Horizon and “Get R Done,” teams took home championships in their respective divisions.
Sanderson said last year’s senior men’s division champion Cardinals will be in Prince Albert to defend their title, with local pitcher Brock Perry taking the mound.
Prince Albert is hosting the tournament for the first time and Sanderson is proud to be a part of an event, which will bring both dollars and visitors to the city to enjoy dozens of high quality fastball tilts.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Aside from the commercial benefits of hosting the tournament, Sanderson is proud to be apart of an event showcasing a sport close to his heart.
Sanderson has been involved with fastball for close to 40 years as a player, coach and fan.
“I am bringing my grandchildren up with fastball,” he said. “I have 11 grandchildren playing. It keeps them busy.”
On Thursday, teams will gather at the tournament’s home base at the Prince Albert Quality Inn for an executive coaches meeting. Fastball action at Prime Ministers’ Park and at Alliance Park near Little Red will get going on Friday with teams competing from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. everyday until closing ceremonies on Sunday.
Weekend passes for the tournament are priced at $30, which will get holders into all the tournament’s games.
“I want to invite the general public to come out and see some real high caliber native fastball,” Sanderson said. “We have a lot of good teams coming from across Western Canada.”