St. George begins countdown for 2017 World Horseshoe Pitching ChampionshipsAs the 2016 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships in Montgomery, Alabama kicked off this week, the official countdown for the 2017 world tournament in St. George began.

The event is set for July 17–30, 2017 at the Dixie Convention Center, the same site where the 2013 tournament was held, and is free and open to the public.

“Hosting this event so soon after we had the 2013 championships speaks volumes about how amazing our communities are in welcoming this sport to the area,” said Kevin Lewis, director of the St. George Area Sports Commission. “The feedback we received from visitors was overwhelmingly positive. They appreciated how much our citizens rolled out the red carpet for them, and it wasn’t long before the event directors invited us to bid to host the tournament again.”

Utah was the epicenter of the horseshoe pitching world following the end of World War II. Twelve times in a 13-year stretch (1947, 1949-59) the world championships were conducted in Murray, just south of Salt Lake City. In those competitions a fierce rivalry ensued between Fernando Isais and Ted Allen. The men won a combined 18 world titles in their careers and captured 11 of the 12 championships contested in Utah in that era.

In recent years, the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association has developed a bidding process to determine future locations. With that, the World Tournament began moving to a new location each year, similar to how the Olympics operates. Two years prior to the proposed event, bid cities attend the World Tournament and market their destination to the pitchers, staff and delegates. At the end of the week, delegates from each state and country vote on where the next tournament will be. Last year at the World Tournament in Topeka, Lewis presented a bid to host the 2017 event.

The 2017 tournament will mark the 15th time it has been in Utah. No other state has hosted as often. During the event, the Dixie Center will become a 48,000-square-foot, air-conditioned arena with 50 horseshoe pitching courts. Each court will be filled with Illinois Blue Clay, which came as a result of extensive research into the consistency and playability of clays from across the country, Lewis said.

“Hosting this prestigious event for the second time in a four-year span shows what a high-quality host St. George has become, and carries on the tradition of Utah being a great location for the world championships,” Lewis said. “The response from pitchers who are here in Montgomery has been phenomenal. Those who participated in St. George in 2013 say they can’t wait to come back, and many of them are planning extended vacations this time so they can take advantage of all of the great sites and activities in our area.”

The 2013 tournament marked a glorious return to the Beehive State after a 47-year absence, and it heralded the most dominant horseshoe pitcher of all time, 20-time world champion Alan Francis, who set a world record with an overall ringer percentage of 91.23. The two-week tournament attracted approximately 1,100 athletes and 4,000 visitors from all over the world.

Lewis said that because competitors and their traveling companions stayed in the region for an average of seven days, they injected an estimated $3.5 million into the local economy.

“While the St. George area is well known around the country for its outdoors appeal, hosting the World Horseshoe Pitching Championships highlights the diversity of sporting options available in the area,” Lewis said. “This is a spectator-friendly event that utilizes the convention center during our shoulder season and helps to fill hotels, restaurants, and other businesses during the height of summer.”

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  1. Having lived in Murray, Utah during the 1950s, my father, mother, 2 brothers, 2 sisters and myself all pitched horseshoes. What a joy that experience was for me. I was lucky to win the junior world tournament in 1957 at the age of 12 (pitching 63%). The great pitcher and friend Ray Ohms hired me to work in his bowling lanes when I was a senior in High School. I will always thank him for the friendship & love he showed to me. His son Dennis Ohms has been a great supporter of the games. My family and I are looking forward to seeing and meeting all you good people in St. George in 2017.

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