“We are excited to announce that Ruston was just awarded the 2019 Dixie Youth Baseball World Series! The new Sports Complex will be complete December of 2018 and will host this prestigious event in the summer of 2019. Look for a local press conference later this week for more exciting information!”
— Ronny Walker, Mayor of Ruston
This Facebook post caught my eye for many reasons. First, it reminded me of a column I wrote several weeks ago about sports tourism. Second, it showed that I was correct about north Louisiana being a prime location for such tourism. Third, it infuriated me that this wasn’t an announcement for Minden.
Upon further research, some more details came to light. This “win’ came pretty quickly to Ruston. According to a story from February on myarklamiss.com, construction on this project kicked off just months ago.
Ruston City Council approved the million-dollar expansion of the existing sports complex back in February, with construction beginning back in May. The expansion is funded by sales tax dollars, approved by voters as part of Ruston’s “Moving Forward” initiative.
“It’s going to be a first class facility and I just want to thank the citizens of Ruston for seeing the need for it first and then supporting us in voting for the tax so that we can build a complex like this,” Mayor Ronny Walker said.
“As we did our research on this we found that in the South most travel team tournaments bring in over $180,000 gross to a city,” Walker said.
When it comes to sports tourism, the dollars are out there for towns like Minden, Ruston, and the like. However, it takes aggressive assertion from people with vision to make things like this happen. The good news is there are plenty of “wins” still out there in this area.
It takes more than pretty fields and plenty of parking to bring in the tournaments. The more municipalities realize the revenue potential from these events, the more competition there will be to land them. Ruston figured that out. Minden figured it out a long time ago — we just never completely capitalized on it.
This isn’t about pointing fingers or crying over lost opportunities. This isn’t about lamenting that Ruston, or Bossier, or Monroe, lands yet another thing, while we tread water.
Those involved with maintaining the status quo can give many reasons why we have not reached our full potential. This really isn’t about that either.
This is about drawing a line in the sand and deciding things like sports tourism are worth it. Events like this are worth all the work to land them. They are worth all the work involved to be the best at hosting them. They are worth all the headaches of coordination, concessions, lodging, etc. They are worth it.
So, what do we do about it? What action is necessary? How much will it cost?
There are those in our community who have run the numbers, developed plans, and invested a lot of time on this very subject. We simply need to assist them in their efforts. Again, a sports commission makes the most sense in this area.
Aside from that, we need not fight against the change that is necessary to do things at a first class level in sports tourism. Whether it is change in priorities, processes, or people, we must be willing to do what is right for the future of Minden.
We are in a competition for these dollars. It is time we started acting like it.
David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at email@example.com.