GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - College softball teams are in town to play ball at the Gulfport Sportsplex this weekend. It's the first major college softball showcase hosted at the sportsplex, and it's the kind of event that draws more attention to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Workers at the sports facility prepared for the arrival of the ten NCAA Division I teams and 25 high school teams.
The softball showcase strikes as a win for the sportsplex which struggled to book games in the years immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Since 2010, the complex has seen a significant increase in both the amount of teams and promoters.
Gulfport Sportsplex manager Rusty Ramage says it wasn't easy getting those promoters back to the Coast.
"Trying to get these guys in was a major tasking to bring them back to Gulfport, but to build business relationships, that's what it took," Ramage said.
He says with those strong relationships, the number of tournaments has gone from about 40 to 50 a year to nearly 80. His goal is to bring in 2,000 teams this year, and the more games, the more money comes to the Coast.
"A lot of people coming out here spending money at restaurants, and buying gas and buying souvenirs and just visiting the hotels. That's a tremendous economic impact. The revenue we give to Gulfport is strictly off of the rental fees, but the money that impacts the community is when they stay and spend money."
Vendors like James Jones are ready for the added business.
"It's good because it gets our name out there. We get really good exposure at local events, and it helps grow business in other aspects, like I said, just because our name is out there," Jones said.
As long as the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast can benefit from the sportsplex, Ramage says his job is complete.
"It's very rewarding for not only myself, but our city of Gulfport. It has something it can be proud of a showcase, and it has showcased, and will continue to do that," Ramage said.
The softball showcase kicks off at 11 a.m. Friday at the Gulfport Sportsplex.