Sports meant big business in 2008

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Published: December 22,2008

Sports are more a way of life rather than just a part of it here in Mississippi, and athletics continued to be big business — and big news — in 2008.

Everybody loves a winner, and the Mississippi Braves were just that in 2008, winning the Southern League Championship.

This success meant an economic windfall, not just for the M Braves, but also for the region and, in particularly, the Bloomfield Development (MBJ, Sept. 1, “Holiday Inn, Alumni House open at Bloomfield Development in Pearl”). The Braves’ home field, Trustmark Park, is located in Bloomfield.

In addition to the new Holiday Inn and Alumni House, a sports bar located in the Holiday Inn, Bloomfield developers formed a team to develop The Outlets at Bloomfield (MBJ Online, Feb. 8, “Bloomfield team formed”), a mammoth outlet mall, and Rankin County subsequently awarded Spectrum Capital, Bloomfield’s developer and a privately-held real estate development company affiliated with The Yates Companies Inc., tax increment financing not to exceed $11 million for The Outlets at Bloomfield (MBJ Online, Sept. 18, “Bloomfield awarded TIF”).

There were other professional sports that added to coffers. The PGA’s Viking Classic was played in September, and was won by Will MacKenzie in a wild, headline-grabbing come-from-behind win. Area businesses were also counting on a “win” at the cash register from the play at Annandale (MBJ, Sept. 15, “Tee it up: Viking Classic underway at Annandale”).

The New Orleans Saints returned to Millsaps College for camp in the summer. Retailers reported that they see little obvious impact from the NFL team, but are thankful for the media coverage for the Capital City (MBJ, Aug. 11, “Training camp: Saints work hard at ‘routine’ media relations”).

The Big Three college towns — Hattiesburg, Starkville and Oxford — were looking for a boost from the excitement around their perspective football teams. Football means good times, which often means a drink or two (MBJ, Aug. 25, “College town package stores coming out of summer slowdown”), and it also means a swing by stores to pick up a shirt, cap or banner (MBJ, Aug. 11, “‘Spirit stores’ forecasting strong autumn sales of team merchandise”).

Universities are hoping for returns as they have spent major dollars this year on upgrading stadiums and arenas (MBJ special publication Construction Mississippi, Summer 2008, “Building big boards in Starkville, Oxford”).

Outdoor activities, particularly hunting, are another big piece of the Mississippi economic pie (MBJ, Dec. 1, “Big Bucks!”). Hunting and angling combined had a $835-million impact on the state’s economy in 2007.

Mark Beason of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, said the deer-hunting season is the most profitable to the state and retailers.

“It’s the engine that drives the truck, so to speak,” Beason said.

Not to be lost is the economic impact of youth sports. There is nothing “little league” about youth sports. It is big business, and communities continued in 2008 to pull in youth sporting events (MBJ, June 30, “The Sporting Spirit: Swinging for the fence”).

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

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