LHSAA Prep Classic sparks $8.2M local economic impact

Northwestern State’s opportunity to host the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Prep Classic generated an economic impact of $8.2 million (Not Hard Dollars) for the Natchitoches community across a four- to five-day period in late December.

The four-day festival of high school football, based on factors such as hotel occupancy, restaurant patronage and other calculations, impacted the Natchitoches-area economy from Dec. 27-30. Northwestern State learned it would host the event 19 days before the first of the nine games kicked off inside Turpin Stadium.

The numbers were tallied by Northwestern State Health and Human Performance Professor Dr. Michael Moulton in collaboration with the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“First and foremost, hosting the Prep Classic at NSU and in Natchitoches provided a service to the state of Louisiana and the LHSAA by playing the state championship football games in a safe environment for teams and fans alike,” NSU Director of Athletics Greg Burke said.

“At the same time, the impact the Prep Classic had on the local business community and downtown historic district provided a much-needed boost for the local economy and was another example of NSU’s value to the city and surrounding region. The charm of our historic city and beautiful campus was on full display for that four- to five-day period, and the soft-dollar value of that is immeasurable and will pay dividends well into the future.”

The hard-dollar amount was driven by a total attendance of 22,564 – an average of more than 2,500 per game. Schools from every region of Louisiana were represented, allowing a constant stream of new faces to experience Northwestern State and Natchitoches. Turpin Stadium was restricted to 4,000 fans per game because of statewide COVID-19 protocols.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the four- to five-day period was a boon for a town whose tourism revenue dipped during the novel coronavirus pandemic, which caused a decline in visitors to Natchitoches during a time when, under normal circumstances, a high volume of visitors descend upon the city for the annual Festival of Lights and the Christmas light display on the downtown riverbank.

“Having the LHSAA Championship games in Natchitoches over several days during the holiday season was a tremendous opportunity for the Natchitoches business community and for the teams that competed,” Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Arlene Gould said. “I sincerely hope that the players, coaches and families who visited will remember their time spent here and come back in the future to spend more time to see all that Natchitoches has to offer.”