Last Modified: Thursday, June 06, 2013 3:24 PM
Southwest Louisiana’s blossoming relationship with the Louisiana High School Athletic Association reached full bloom Wednesday, when Executive Committee voted to play all baseball and basketball championships in the area over the next two years.
Lake Charles won an 11-8 vote to host both boys and girls basketball tournaments at Burton Coliseum. Sulphur, which has hosted four classes in baseball the past two years, was awarded all seven classes. Those tournaments will be played at McMurry Park. The event will expand from two days to three.
LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson recommended Sulphur get all baseball championships, but told the Executive Committee that LHSAA staff was fine with basketball going to either Lake Charles or being split up, with the girls tournament going to Hammond and the boys tournament going to Shreveport.
Lake Charles successfully hosted basketball semifinal regionals at the Civic Center over the past two years, when the LHSAA tried a new format. Now, Burton Coliseum will host every semifinal and final basketball game over a two-week span.
The Lake Charles bid provided Burton at no cost to the LHSAA and includes an incentive payment of $20,000 to the organization each of the next two years. The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury will provide 75 percent of that funding, with the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau providing the remaining 25 percent.
“We offer incentives like that for major events that we help bring to the area, usually through grants,” said Eric Zartler, senior sales manager/athletics of the CVB. “We have a sports war chest that we use to help bring in events to the area that we expect to use 400 or more hotel rooms. With basketball, look at all the media attention we are going to get. Every paper in state going to have Lake Charles in the byline. There is value in that. With 3-4 games a day, our best guess is that this will create 100-150 room stays a night, just from teams and staff alone, not including the fans.
“It is a huge day for Southwest Louisiana, landing boys and girls basketball and getting all seven classes of baseball. I can’t explain the emotion.”
Zartler said the event will help showcase Burton Coliseum.
“You look this week, you have rodeo going on, they just extended the deal there another five years,” Zartler said. “We really believe that once the LHSAA sets foot in there for basketball, they will get same feeling, like they are right at home. We think this can be a signature event at Burton. The coliseum had been tagged as a rodeo arena, but it is very versatile and this is going to put it on the map as home of the McNeese Cowboys and home of the Top 28.”
The swimming and softball championships have already found a home in Sulphur. Now the city will have an opportunity to help the baseball event grow. This will be the first time all seven classes are played at the same site.
“I think with our local people and all the area pitching in to make it an event, a destination, that is our goal,” said Norman Farr, Sulphur Parks and Recreation director. “We can do that. I think if people enjoy coming, the longevity will take care of itself.”