By hosting the recent Southland Conference Championships for softball and men’s and women’s track and field, coupled with last fall’s Southland Volleyball Tournament, Northwestern State generated well over $1 million in economic impact for the local area, said director of athletics Greg Burke.
From May 2-10, Natchitoches and the surrounding area was visited by 30 Southland Conference teams and their supporters. The Southland Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex were staged May 3-5, with the Southland Softball Tournament beginning two days later and concluding after a four-day competition.
A total of 23 track and field teams joined the host NSU squads in that meet. The Lady Demons softball team was part of an eight-team tournament field. Those events created nearly $900,000 in local economic impact, said Burke.
The softball tournament hosting role was secured in a competitive bid process, along with the 2018 Southland Volleyball Tournament Nov. 18-20, which brought another seven visiting teams to Natchitoches.
“Bringing Southland Conference championship events to Natchitoches is a winning proposition on many levels. It is important to share how much these Southland Conference events on our campus benefit the local economy,” said Burke. “We will continue to pursue events of this nature to further solidify the great partnership between NSU and the City of Natchitoches.
“It is also meaningful from a financial and competitive perspective for our teams to play at home and for our great fans to be able to support them at their home venues,” said Burke. “Events like these also provide another opportunity for visitors to be exposed to our historic and beautiful community.”
Valuable support to stage the championships was provided by the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission and the Natchitoches Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Additional assistance in the form of donated meals and hotel accommodations came from Sodexo, Lasyone’s, Dominos, Dickey’s, Merci Beaucoup, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, Layne Miller and Hunter Mullikin, and Sharpco Hotels.
The economic impact estimate was provided by Dr. Michael Moulton, coordinator for the sport administration master’s degree program as a faculty member of the NSU Department of Health and Human Performance.
Since 1998, Northwestern has hosted 25 Southland Conference championships in soccer, volleyball, cross country, track and field, baseball and softball, along with nine homecourt conference tournament basketball games in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
The university and city annually host the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s cross country championships each November, dating back more than a quarter-century.
Burke offered praise for the NSU Athletics staff members and volunteers from the community and sport supporters whose exceptional efforts made the recent championships well received.
“Hosting these championship events required a tremendous time and energy investment by an athletic department support staff that already was stretched thinly at a busy time of the year. Kudos to them for understanding the importance of these events and working hard to make the fan and student-athlete experience one that was first-class,” he said. “We are fortunate to have supporters in our community and family members of our student-athletes and former competitors who are so invested in our programs that they eagerly step up to play vital roles as well.”
Burke said NSU has submitted a bid to host the 2021 Southland softball tournament. The conference will consider 2020-21 championship sites and award hosting roles during next week’s Southland Conference Spring Meetings in Frisco, Texas.