SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — Logistics are crucial when your quiet little borough of about 6,500 people suddenly grows to many times that size every August.
That’s the effect in South Williamsport, Lycoming County, when the annual Little League Baseball World Series takes place. But, according to Borough Manager Michael Miller, the municipality has been dealing with the famous event and its crowds for so long that it is not that big of a deal.
“For us, it is very exciting,” he said. “It is a nice change of pace.”
The 11-day tournament is played in a complex owned by Little League International. One-game crowds for a championship contest have exceeded 40,000.
Lance Van Auken, vice president of the nonprofit, said the total number of visitors during the entire tournament probably is about 90,000, with many of those people attending more than one game on more than one day. Volunteers provide a huge boost in staging the event.
The series was played in Williamsport from its inception in 1946 — seven years after Carl E. Stotz invented Little League baseball — until 1958. It moved across the Susquehanna River into the newly built Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport in 1959.
Many expansions have happened at the baseball complex since then.
“They have just gone bonkers,” said J. Bernard Schelb, the longtime borough council president. “The series does a lot for the region. The hotels are all booked.”
The biggest crowds, Schelb said, occur when a team from a U.S. community located within a few hours of South Williamsport makes the series.
“They bring in tons of people, busload after busload, and they need places to sleep,” he said.
Street sweeping and pothole-filling become priorities in South Williamsport in the weeks leading up to the series. A 100-acre borough park that is adjacent to the Little League complex — and which hosts much of the parking for visitors — gets a cleanup.
As the series gets underway, police departments from all over Lycoming County as well as state police and some federal agencies help South Williamsport with crowd control and law enforcement, according to borough police Chief Robert Hetner.
Generally, he said, things go smoothly.
Some last-minute scrambling has occurred when VIPs arrive and do things security planners do not expect.
For instance, Hetner said, Vice President Dick Cheney chose to watch a game by sitting in a crowd on a hillside rather than in the Lamade Stadium seats. When Vice President Dan Quayle attended, he decided at the last minute against riding in a motorcade.
“You never know what these people might do,” Hetner said.
But it’s all good, he added. Famous people act that way, he said, because they understand Little League is about baseball tradition and families.
He said, “It is kind of like home and that whole idea of community and grass roots.”