Tournament Offers Model

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Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, the saying goes. But sometimes, it seems that the town has embraced a university here as its only savior. But what if Payson has other possibilities?

Take the Gracie Lee Haught Classic softball tournament, which this weekend drew 300 participants and perhaps 1,000 spectators to the Rim Country to enjoy a weekend tournament attendees hailed for its unique atmosphere.

So many came to visit, the hotels filled up. Yep. Every hotel room was filled and organizers had to scramble to find homes to rent for the overflow. Let’s see, hotel tax, nights out at restaurants, visits to local vendors for supplies, maybe even a movie or two — sounds like a prosperous weekend.

As an added bonus, the town didn’t have to put on the entertainment — the teams did that. All Payson offered was the space for the tournament and places for people to sleep. So the town owes the organizers a big debt.

Why can’t Payson host more tournaments? Youth soccer tournaments, mountain bike races, cross country running races, touring bike races — the list is endless.

A couple of events are already up and running:

Pine hosts the Fire on the Rim mountain bike race. Organizers were pleased at the turnout last year — its inaugural year. Participants talk about bringing up other family and friends to participate this year, especially since babysitting during the race is offered.

The Zane Grey 50 running race has happened in April for the past 23 years. Runners from around the world come to soak in the beauty of the Highline Trail running 50 miles from Pine to Christopher Creek. The runners spend the night in the Rim Country prior to the race and eat at its restaurants.

Of course, it takes years for a tournament to build an audience. The GLH Classic took eight years to catch on.

So expand your horizons Payson, consider using what we already have — our beauty, sports facilities, hotels and amenities to revitalize the town.

Before the Great Recession, this town put all its economic eggs into a housing boom basket we figured would go on forever. But as we’ve learned to our sorrow — it is far too easy to drop the basket.

History’s lessons

The clues to our fate lie scattered on every hand, like so many painted pot shards. Mostly, we pick up the pieces on a whim, turn them a few times in our hands and drop them in the sand — not seeing how they fit together.

Last week, we ran an article about the disappearance of the people who farmed the bends and meanders of the Colorado River in the depths of the Grand Canyon for 1,000 years before they vanished in the 1400s.

This week, we reported on the fascinating evolution of pottery styles among the Hohokam, who built the greatest cities in the Southwest and thrived for close to 2,000 years where the Salt, Verde and Gila rivers joined in the Valley. But they too vanished — overwhelmed by some economic disaster that toppled a dozen, interconnected cultures.

We know the Hohokam had to contend with droughts and floods near the time of the collapse — but nothing worse than they’d faced repeatedly in their long, rich history.

So what happened? And why should we care?

Tonto National Forest archaeologist Scott Wood, at the weekend lecture, advanced a compelling theory. He noted that these cultures had become deeply interconnected — with some villages making decorated pots, others making ax heads. They fed these goods into trade networks fueled mostly by the agricultural surpluses created by hundreds of miles of irrigation canals tended by the hard-working Hohokam.

So when disaster overtook the great fields of the Hohokam, the ripples spread outward — shattering the economic foundations of even distant cultures.

One can’t help but draw parallels, to our own wobbly and interdependent times — when a default on bonds in Greece can topple a thunderous line of economic dominoes reaching from Europe to our own shores.

So we shiver as we finger the shards of Hohokam dreams, painted with playful creatures and sacred symbols. Did they see the danger that stalked them? Did they argue and then shrug?

And we ponder teetering dominoes of our own while the politicians bicker and blame.

In the end we cannot help but wonder what have we learned, after all, in all this time since the Hohokam fell.

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