The Hattiesburg economy hit a home run with 3 weeks of 'Baseburg'. Here's the score.
Hattiesburg is a winner when it comes to the economic impact of hosting baseball tournaments three weekends in a row.
Marlo Dorsey, executive director of VisitHattiesburg, the city’s tourism commission, said Hattiesburg hit a home run with "Baseburg" this season. Early results show revenue from hotels is about 23% higher than the same 30-day period last year.
"We know that our hotels are full and we also know that the rates some of our hotels can charge is a bit higher because demand is higher," Dorsey said. "We're looking at the best June, or the best 30 days, that we've had in a really, really long time in Hattiesburg."
The economic impact? So far it's roughly $20 million, Dorsey said. And the value of exposure Hattiesburg received during the tournaments from national television networks? Priceless.
"From an economic impact standpoint, when we're looking at early figures, we're looking at more than $20 million just from the last three weekends," Dorsey said. "When we look at the national exposure that Hattiesburg and Southern Miss on ESPN and a lot of other national platforms, that gives us the ability to be promoted on a national level."
The impact went beyond the dollars brought in by tourism, Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said, and it goes beyond the city limits.
“It’s good for the entire region,” George said. “Even though this weekend didn’t turn out the way we wanted, I think being able to host a conference tournament and then a regional and then our university’s first-ever super regional rally has a positive impact on our community. That’s not just with dollars spent, but with our community coming together and rallying behind our university has been really special for Hattiesburg.”
The Golden Eagles may have lost to the Ole Miss Rebels on Sunday after being shut out two games in a row in the NCAA Super Regional but won the NCAA Regional and Conference USA tournaments the preceding weekends.
They also won the hearts of fans and supporters on both sides.
“The LSU fans I talked to last weekend and some of the Ole Miss fans I had the opportunity to talk with this weekend all had nothing but great things to say about their experience in Hattiesburg,” George said. “It’s always a great opportunity to showcase Hattiesburg on such a big stage.”
George said he is proud of not only the baseball team, but also the people who worked behind the scenes to make the tournaments run smoothly, from campus, safety and city employees to hotels and local businesses owners and their employees.
“There so many people who play a role in making the events go off well,” he said. “It really was a team effort.”
Hattiesburg became "Baseburg" as Southern Miss Baseball Coach Scott Berry led his team to win after win before their fall to an in-state rival.
"Southern Miss made history because they're truly a great team," Dorsey said. "They had a great season. And because of that success we were able to have three weekends in a row of entertaining visitors from multiple places. When we crunch all the numbers, we're looking at being at a historical high (for the economy) for the last 30 days here in Hattiesburg."
The tournaments are part of what is bringing Hattiesburg tourism back to pre-pandemic figures.
"When we look at tourism as a whole for Hattiesburg, in 2019, before the pandemic, we were looking at our strongest overall year that we've ever had," Dorsey said. "We were right at about $300 million in visitor spending for the city of Hattiesburg."
In 2020, the city lost about $50 million in tourism dollars, Dorsey said. In 2021, those figures began to improve.
"We're almost back now at pre-pandemic levels," Dorsey said. "Looking back at the last 30 days, we believe we're going to exceed that $300 million mark for our annual spending here in Hattiesburg.
"We're already seeing 20% to 25% over where we were last year. We're thrilled at the volume of people that we have coming in, but when it's all said and done, we truly believe this will be the biggest, most historic month that we've ever had in the history of tourism in Hattiesburg."
Although tourism was down during the pandemic, a lot of lessons were learned. Cooperation between competing businesses helped get them through the pandemic.
That cooperation helped again during "Baseburg", Dorsey said. Hotels that were full called other hotels in the city to help customers find a place to stay in the Hub City.
The restaurants equally promoted they were showing the games and offered discounts to those showing their ticket stubs from the games.
"We learned over the last two years the importance of working together in adversity," Dorsey said. "And now that we are seeing a lot of economic vitality and growth that lesson has still continued to help us.
"When we look at these last three weeks, we saw an unprecedented amount of cooperation from our tourism partners," Dorsey said. "We had hotels that were sold out, they were happy to call another hotel that was really their competitor."
Hattiesburg likely will see another strong showing for tourism this weekend with the annual Craft Beer Festival on Saturday at Town Square Park, Dorsey said.
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