HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It was huge weekend for sporting events in South Mississippi: 30 high school baseball teams for Battle at the Beach, more than 200 soccer squads for the Gulf Coast Cup, and 684 gymnasts for the Mississippi State Championship.
All of the events happening at the same time may be coincidental, but the effort to bolster amateur sports tourism on the Coast is a concerted effort by Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Director Cynthia Dedeaux says some were initially reluctant to host the Mississippi State Gymnastic Championship on the Coast.
"But now that they are here and they're seeing how great it is, and how beautiful the Coast is, they have really enjoyed it and I have had many, many compliments about the Coast," Dedeaux said.
Brianne Helms and her family haven't visited the Coast in 15 years.
"We've enjoyed eating at the local places here," Helms said. "We've enjoyed spending time on the beach, we've shopped at some of the souvenir places. We've really enjoyed our stay here at the beach."
It's the biggest Gulf Coast Cup tournament for Gulf Coast United Futbol Club in its 14-year run.
"Obviously with us having 150 teams from out of town, there is simply no hotels this weekend," said Oleg Chichkanov, director of coaching. "The restaurants will be slammed tonight, they were slammed last night. They will be packed today and the rest of the day tomorrow."
There are 300 people from Shreveport clubs alone - and the first time for Chris Cosse.
"We're coming to the beaches and there's lots of development going on here. This tournament location is phenomenal. The facilities are beautiful and we're just excited to be here and experience Gulfport," said Cosse.
According to the National Association of Sports Commissions, the sports tourism industry is worth $9 billion and is anticipated to grow 12 to 14 percent over the next 10 years.