Sports tourism may help offset low numbers at Coast hotels

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Hotel occupancy numbers on the Coast are down. But, while this holiday weekend may not be as rosy as tourism leaders would like. There might be a light in an unlikely form. Sports tourism may help offset the low numbers.

With the crack of a bat, this Memorial Day weekend on the Coast is filled with softball.

About 80 teams came to Gulfport from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida.

"What that means is quite frankly, economic impact. When you're looking at about 65 percent of the teams here, about a little over 60 teams here are spending the night. They're staying and spending their money in local restaurants," Torye Hurst said.

Hurst is the director of sports sales and marketing with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Hurst, along with the vice president of United States fast pitch Association Jeff Strode, says the numbers don't lie.

"It's a big impact to the economy, probably $500 to $600 per family," Strode said.

"This tournament itself will probably be a $200,000 to $300,000 impact this weekend," Hurst added.

And get this, Hurst says this is the smallest of the six major softball and baseball tournaments that the Coast hosts.

Hurst says combined, the softball tournaments bring in an estimated $1.5 million to lodging.

And an estimated $2 million to the food and beverage industry. A total of $3.5 million to the Coast. And with the baseball numbers, that can be multiplied times two.

"Everybody comes together. This is kind of a central drawing point for everybody," Strode said.

"This is a great destination for people to come to. If we could continue to try to upgrade facilities we'll see it grow," Hurst said.

And that growth, Hurst says is a home run for the economy.

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