A League of Their Own

In Columbus, we’re exceptionally proud of our sports teams, and we’re proud to be known nationwide as open and welcoming to the gay community. Marry the two and you get the Gay Softball World Series, the largest gay sporting event in the world and a championship unlike any other.

Around 200 teams will travel to Columbus this August for the GSWS, which was established in 1978 by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) to encourage participation in organized competition by gays and lesbians.

Dallas Aldridge, GSWS Columbus president, recalled the first year the event took place, when just a handful of cities were declared safe places for LGBT people to come together to play a sport and feel accepted.

“This event goes far and
beyond the economic impact and the visitor spending.”

“I think it has evolved over time that we’re now expecting 200 softball teams,” Aldridge said. “It’s about where some cities, their states might have gay marriage, others are still fighting for it, it’s still kind of an evolving group and changing over time.”

And while Columbus is increasingly accepting, gay marriage is not yet legal in the state of Ohio.

“We’re all aware of the situation and concerns with Indiana [in April], and we just are such a smart and open city that I think we have a growing national reputation of being one of the most welcoming cities in the country for the LGBT community,” said Bruce Wimbish of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. “Having this event continues to cement that, but just also reinforces it to our local community. This event goes far and beyond the economic impact and the visitor spending.”

The commission worked closely alongside Aldridge and the GSWS to bring the event back to Columbus after the success of hosting in 2010, which ultimately led to $5 million in visitor spending. Delegates unanimously selected Columbus for 2015 due to ample sporting fields, hotels and nightlife.

Teams from 46 cities within 20 states will compete in the weeklong event held August 17-22 at Lou Berliner Park, one of the nation’s largest softball complexes, to try to bring home the championship. The tournament holds playoffs for four different divisions, separated by talent level.

The event involves more than just time on the field, too. It boasts an opening ceremony, a GSWS outing to a Clippers game, a party at the downtown Renaissance rooftop pool, a closing block party and more.

Although the sporting event bears the word gay in its title, teams are mixed gender and include allies, not looking to prevent others from participating in the games or any of the events.

The GSWS has also helped lure other sporting events like the Women’s Final Four to the city because it shows how open, inclusive and safe the city is, Wimbish said.

Columbus will send eight or nine teams to the World Series this year, and they will earn their spot through a playoff in their home league, the Columbus Lesbian and Gay Softball Association. The season will officially kick off in May.

Not only is this event about playing with acceptance, it focuses heavily on giving back. Columbus donates to local charities with the help of NAGAAA and community partners.

Wimbish summed it up: “There’s so many layers of benefit and value to Columbus when we host many of these events.”

Visit www.gsws2015.org for more information.