Last Modified: Tuesday, June 04, 2013 11:23 PM
Southwest Louisiana has become a popular destination for Louisiana High School Athletic Association championship events over the past few years, a trend that could continue Wednesday afternoon when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Committee votes on hosts for championship events over the next two years.
Lake Charles has submitted bids to host both the boys and girls basketball state tournaments at Burton Coliseum, while Sulphur has bid to host all seven baseball state tournaments at McMurry Park.
Lake Charles has hosted basketball regional events featuring semifinal games for the past two years at the Civic Center, drawing state-leading crowds each spring. But, the basketball playoffs are returning to the old format, with separate, weeklong tournaments for boys and girls.
Lake Charles is the only city bidding for both tournaments and will compete against Monroe and Hammond for the girls tournament. Shreveport and Ruston bid for the boys tournament.
Hammond has hosted regional events the past two years and was the most recent host of the girls tournament under the old format. Monroe hosted the basketball championship games this past season.
“I feel our bid is very strong, even though we face a lot of competition,” said Eric Zartler, senior sales manager/athletics for the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I know there will be some other strong bids,” he said. “I am confident. We were able to work with the (Calcasieu Parish) Police Jury to put together an attractive bid. I am confident that at the end of the day they will have to think long and hard. When they think about what is best for the student-athlete and for the LHSAA, our bid accomplishes all of those goals.
“First and foremost, we are looking to give them a facility, providing all of the necessary tournament support items such as security, hospitality, press conferences; and providing the facility at no cost to them. That in itself is a tremendous deal, and there is some incentive there if they award us bids for both the boys and girls tournaments.”
Zartler said the success of the regionals in Lake Charles boosts the area’s chances of getting future tournaments.
“I think the job we did with the regionals laid the foundation for what this bid is,” he said. “The work that the parish put in at Burton Coliseum to upgrade the facility is some of the things they are looking for. It meets the requirements of the bid. We have gotten good feedback from the LHSAA, the job we did the past two years paved the way for (today).”
Sulphur has hosted the baseball tournaments for Classes 4A, 3A, B and C for the past two years, and is the sole bidder for Classes 5A, 4A, 1A, B and C. Baton Rouge has submitted a bid to host the 3A and 2A tournaments at Southern University.
Norman Farr of Sulphur Parks and Recreation said he wants all classes in baseball to help the tournament grow into a success as the softball tournament has in Sulphur. This year’s softball tournament set an attendance record with more than 20,000 fans.
Farr said baseball has drawn about 8,000 fans to Sulphur each of the past two years, despite having rain each year.
“We have been striving towards (having all classes together) since the beginning,” Farr said. “We are hopeful that we will get it. We have had good feedback. Getting the (four) classes together has really created an atmosphere. People can come to the tournament, not just come to see their favorite team or school. I would like to see attendance get into the 20,000 range, like the girls. I think it could get there, or more.”
McMurray Park has three high-school sized fields available, all with turf infields and underground drainage in the outfield. If Sulphur gets all seven classes, the tournament would likely be played over three days instead of two.
Zartler said the tournaments could give the community and economy a big boost.
“When you look at softball, we are breaking records with more than 20,000 people,” he said. “Those are people that are staying in hotels, eating in our restaurants, purchasing gas, shopping in our stores. When you look at basketball, if we are successful of acquiring both boys and girls, you are looking at upwards of 80,000 people coming in over a two-week period. When you do the math, the economic impact is tremendous.”