Thousands of softball fans in Clearwater for NCAA tournament

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Tens of thousands of people, and even more in dollars, will be pouring into the Clearwater this weekend.

The NCAA is holding a women’s softball tournament over the next four days, featuring some of the top teams in the nation. The St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational kicked off Thursday morning and will run through Sunday.

This is a big deal for the economy in Clearwater, Florida and the entire Bay Area. As of Thursday morning, ticket sales have exceeded $100,000.

Teams from 30 states mean thousands of fans watching, and even more eyeballs with a broadcast on ESPN. Of the 39 games, 25 will be available across ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, and ESPN3.

“We’ve partnered with ESPN now so not only are we doing what we did in the past but we get to promote our destination,” said Mike Lockwood with the City of Clearwater.

Eleven of the teams playing have the top RPI rankings. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, these players are the top talent.

One woman, a Tennessee fan, came from New Jersey to watch the games. She came not only for the sport, but also to trade the cold for some beach time.

“We are basketball fans but we love softball and this was the best opportunity to see the best teams in the country,” she said. “It’s a great area, love the beaches, great food.”

As for economic impact, right now it’s too early to estimate an exact figure, but officials say they expect it will be a good number.