BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Conference USA Baseball Tournament is extending its stay at MGM Park.
At a press conference Friday morning (May 3) at the Margaritaville Resort in Biloxi, Tim Bennett of Overtime Sports announced that the five-day event will return to the Coast for a fourth consecutive year in 2020.
“It justifies the construction of MGM Park at the end of the day," Bennett said. "If we don’t have MGM Park, we don’t have Conference USA. If we don’t have Conference USA, we don’t have that six million dollars in additional spending that occurs every year.”
“We are very pleased to extend our agreement to bring the C-USA Baseball Championship to Biloxi an additional year," said Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod via statement. “The combination of the location, quality of facility and the support we have received from the city of Biloxi and the South Mississippi region, make it an outstanding place to hold this exciting event.”
With an ever-growing annual price tag to the conference now reaching over six figures, Bennett credits an increased financial commitment by The First bank - the tournament’s title sponsor - as a big factor in sealing the deal.
“It’s an investment," The First CEO Hoppy Cole said. "They talk about a contribution, but we view it very much as an investment. We measure our returns on it. Our returns, we think, will be significant.”
The goal for all involved is to keep the Conference USA Tournament in Biloxi on a long-term basis. However, according to Bennett, the sponsorship funding just isn’t there yet. Until it is, they plan to keep working year to year.
“We can’t put all of this on the back of the city and the county and Overtime Sports and The First bank,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to have people that are stepping up, stepping in and helping to support."
The 2017 C-USA Championship, the first to be held in Biloxi, saw Rice defeat Southern Miss in the championship game in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a C-USA title game (5,216). Between the record-setting attendance, and record-setting profits for the Conference, there is plenty of optimism that a long-term deal to keep the event on the Coast can one day be reached.
“This is the most money that (the C-USA) baseball program has made in a championship tournament ever. We’re happy with that, because that means they’re happy," Bennett said. "But beyond that, we can’t continue to ask just one or two businesses, mine included, to fill that gap.”
“Getting those people to come to Biloxi and spend their money - we think once we get them here, they’ll return," Cole said. "I hope that the other businesses in the community will also see that this event can provide real meaningful value.”
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament will take place May 20-24, 2020, at MGM Park.
The 2020 Championship will mark the fourth consecutive year that the event will be played in Biloxi. This year’s C-USA tournament is being held May 22-26, 2019, at MGM Park.
The 2020 Championship will mark the 25th in Conference USA’s history. Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, UTSA and WKU are the 12 schools that compete in baseball. The top eight regular season finishers qualify for the C-USA Championship.