Sports fans in the Magnolia State have plenty to talk about these days. The Olympics. High school and college football. Youth sports, like softball, baseball and soccer. And then of course, there’s always golf, tennis and getting outside into the great Mississippi outdoors.
Along with the fun and health benefits of both spectator and participatory sports, there is also an important economic impact to consider. Communities around the state are discovering that sporting events and activities can be great for business.
As MBJ contributing writer Karen Holliday reports this week: From amateur and professional events to youth and adult tournaments, sports development adds another element of economic diversity to a region’s tourism initiatives.
According to Janet Leach, manager of golf marketing and sports development at the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism, Mississippi’s variety of sporting venues throughout the state and its climate make it a strong candidate for year-round sports events.
Hattiesburg Convention and Visitors Bureau assistant director Patrick Bell adds that beyond statistics, local hotel, restaurant and retail establishments can clearly identify the economic impact generated from sports activities.
“When you see a group of kids coming into a restaurant to eat in their soccer uniforms, a tournament’s economic impact is right in front of you,” he says.
And another important impact comes from college football weekends. Writer Lynne Jeter found that out for our page one story.
“When you’re having a winning season, you’re getting business all week long, not just weekends. People are in a good mood and feel more like socializing,” says Jay Yates, chef/owner of The Veranda, an upscale seafood and steak restaurant in Starkville, home to the Mississippi State Bulldogs — a team which has garnered national media attention all summer after the hiring of Sylvester Croom, the first African-American head football coach in the Southeastern Conference.
“But no matter what happens, a football game weekend in a small college town is a fun, fun thing,” Yates adds.
Mississippi’s outdoor enthusiasts are also gearing up for busy fall weekends. From dove hunts to deer camp workdays to pleasant afternoons out on the water, thousands of people and millions of dollars are keeping businesses busy.
Certainly, running the numbers on the economic impact of sports and outdoor recreation is critical. However, the intangibles that these events and activities bring to a community are often just as important.
And they’re a heckuva lot of fun.