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Sports Tourism Growing Segment of Mississippi Gulf Coast Visitors

By Rhonda Miller | Published 06 Jul 2012 09:30pm | comments
The Nations Gulf Coast Select National baseball tournment held most games at the Sportsplex in Gulfport. Other games during the three-day tournament that drew 37 teasm were at area high school fields.

Conventions make up a major part of tourism on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports on the growing segment of sports tourism.

Out on the baseball field at the Sportsplex in Gulfport, the first two teams playing on this July afternoon are from Texas and Tennessee.  Other teams from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana will be playing in this three-day tournament.  Organizer Todd Buster is the owner of NOLA Baseball, a New Orleans-based travel club.

"People are starting to say, 'Hey, I want to come back to the coast and I want to come to the Sportsplex.'  Whether they do a NOLA Baseball event or they do another Nations Baseball event, those things are starting to happen here. And we’re starting to make it very, very fruitful for all the businesses and the hotels."

Jonathan White is the coach of a team named the Force from Tennessee. He says the tournament on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a winner for families.

"A lot of our families planned their vacation time 'cause they knew we’re gonna be at the beach. And then we came down here and did a pre-skills tournament, ran the bases and met the other teams. It was really welcoming, it was real cool. And then we went out to the water park yesterday before the game and that was a blast."

That’s exactly what tourism leaders like to hear - families extending their stays and spending their money.  Executive Director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau Beth Carriere estimates 45 percent of coast tourism is from conventions and other groups.

"The economy doesn’t affect that as much, it’s not a personal decision, let’s put it that way. And motorcoach groups that come in on tours, it’s usually a pretty economical way to travel. And then team sports, you will do without a lot of things to make sure that your children get to do things and you do things as a family."

Carriere says tourists spent about one-and-a-half billion dollars last year in the three coastal counties. Youth baseball and softball tournaments are expected to bring in more than 3,000 players during July.



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