Sports dollars available with tournaments

It is not whether you win or lose, but who has the most dollars at the end of the game.

During 2011, the sports industry generated $422 billion nationally. Add on the cash brought into hosting cities that was used to pay for hotels, restaurants, vehicle rentals, souvenirs, and even purchasing items visitors forgot at home, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.

During January, New Orleans became a sports and tourism center as the city hosted major NCAA events in addition to its regularly scheduled professional athletic competition.

Exact dollars from direct and indirect revenue to-date have not been tabulated, but New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau spokeswoman Kelly Schulz contends that regardless of the final scores at the Sugar Bowl or BCS Championship game, tourism was the real winner.

“The last time New Orleans hosted [both] the Sugar Bowl and BCS was in 2008,” Schulz said. “It created $400 million in economic impact.” Added value came with national television exposure, which translated into free advertising for south Louisiana. The spotlight also became a catalyst for future marketing efforts.

Carnival and Mardi Gras are coming in February along with tens of thousands of tourists. That traditional money-maker will be closely followed by the Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, March 8-11, bringing in more than 15,000 visitors, only to be followed by the NCAA Men’s Final Four, March 31 through April 2, which by itself is expected to generate an economic impact of up to $145 million.

Not every town is equipped to host major college or even final high school championship tournaments. However, before teams advance they travel through qualifying tournaments hosted in so-called secondary markets.

We believe the Tri-parish region, as it plans to enhance economic development and tourism activity, has a prime opportunity with facilities like the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center. Having undergone structural enhancements, the facility is prepared to host advancing level tournaments for prep and college sports. Kemper-Williams Park in Patterson and a future sports complex being discussed in the region can all help attract these dollars to our region.

We encourage the leadership of Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, Lafourche and St. Mary Parish governments, the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority, area convention and visitor bureaus and school districts in Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes to team-up during 2012 and jointly approach associations that decide what will become host cities for traveling sports endeavors of the future.

The clock has started. We can win with an aggressive game plan or lose by not acting upon opportunity.