A recruitment team comprised of the City of Ruston, the Ruston-Lincoln CVB and the Ruston Dixie Baseball Association stepped up to the plate and a scored a home run! Mayor Ronny Walker announced (8/14/17) that the City of Ruston won the bid to host the Dixie Youth Baseball (DYB) 2019 World Series for the 8u AA Coach Pitch and Machine Pitch, the 10u AAA Minors Live Arm, the 12u Majors, and the 12u O-Zone. The two week-long, youth baseball tournament will bring in 60 teams from 11 southern states. The economic impact for hotels, motels, restaurants, and other businesses is projected to be at least $6 million for what promises to be the single largest youth sporting event for the City of Ruston and Lincoln Parish.
“Hotels and motels will be filled from Ruston to Monroe to Minden- all along the I-20 corridor,” said Travis Napper, President and CEO for the Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “Because the DYB World Series will take place over two weeks with only one game played daily, visitors will be eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores, and visiting local attractions. There’s a tremendous economic impact for Northeast Louisiana.”
Mayor Walker believes it took teamwork and community support to win the DYB World Series. Walker points to the three-quarter cent sales tax approved in April 2016 that funds Ruston’s master plan, which includes a $15 million sports complex. The brand new, City of Ruston Sports Complex on 170 acres is a big reason why the Dixie Youth organization selected the City of Ruston, according to Mayor Walker.
The Sport Complex boasts multiple ball fields, soccer and football areas, a walking track and even a fishing pond. Phase I of the construction on the Sports Complex will be to build out the baseball fields in time for the DYB World Series to be held July 29 to August 9, 2019.
Youth Sports Tourism is Big Business!
According to Youth Sports Advisory, youth sports tourism is a $7 billion a year industry- just ask any parent with kids in travel ball. Mayor Walker says according to the southern average a typical family spends nearly $500 a weekend for each travel game. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association points to the fact that even in an economic downturn, youth sports tourism is almost recession-proof. Parents will sacrifice a couple’s get-away before they’ll sacrifice their children’s sports travel. Youth sports are commonly defined as nonschool-related sport activities that include baseball, soccer, lacrosse, rowing, volleyball and gymnastics.
Northeast Louisiana, known as “Sportsman Paradise,” is well positioned to capture this booming youth sports market. The Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau has been recruiting sporting events as part of its tourism attraction strategy since the early 90s. Scott Bruscato, Senior Vice President of Sales, leads the Monroe-West Monroe CVB’s sports recruitment efforts. Bruscato says Northeast Louisiana and Monroe-West Monroe specifically have great sports facilities and venues; along with partnerships with local universities and team-friendly hotels; and a sports culture that keep youth sporting events coming back year after year.
This summer Monroe-West Monroe hosted the Dixie Baseball Majors World Series for 18 and 19 year olds. The event will return to the area for another two years in 2018 and 2019. Also, the Dixie Baseball pre-Major for 16-17 year olds will come to Monroe-West Monroe in 2019. The economic impact of the 2017 Dixie Majors World Series, which brought in 11 teams from across the Southeastern U.S., totaled $175,000 over the five-day period.
Over the past six years, Monroe-West Monroe hosted the BMX Cajun Nationals at the Ike Hamilton in West Monroe. More than 800 riders competed in the three-day bike event, generating $168,000 in economic impact.
For the first time, Northeast Louisiana also played host to the Collegiate Wakeboarding Invitational August 11th-13th on Bayou Desiard in the middle of the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s campus. Sixteen teams from across the country were invited to duke it out to determine who would be crowned the National Champion. The economic impact of that event totaled $115,000.
In just the last six months of 2017, the estimated economic impact for sport tourism in Ouachita Parish is nearly $4.7 million, according the Monroe-West Monroe CVB. With such big returns, communities are investing big dollars to capture a slice of this booming market. The Town of Sterlington in Ouachita Parish passed a half-cent sales tax to fund a $14 million sports complex with five regulation high school baseball fields and five regulation softball fields and two tee ball fields in order to host tournaments. Upon completion of Phase I of construction, the Sterlington Sports Complex (SSC) will be the only complex in the state capable of hosting five high school baseball games simultaneously. Using temporary fencing, SSC could also host up to ten softball or ten youth baseball games at the same time.
It’s an investment that appears to be paying off for the Town of Sterlington, since SSC already has a dozen tournaments scheduled for 2018 and is getting daily calls for more business. Sports tourism isn’t just fun and games; it’s serious business!