It was a clean sweep Wednesday afternoon for Southwest Louisiana.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Committee voted to keep the softball, baseball, boys basketball and swimming state tournaments in Southwest Louisiana.
“It is tremendous,” Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President of Sales Eric Zartler said. “It is a huge vote of confidence on the part of the LHSAA to go ahead and keep all four of those events here.
“I think it speaks to the job that our facilities and volunteers do,” he said. “The commitment by our local government to keep these facilities top-notch and provide funding to put these events on, I couldn’t be happier than I am right now. We are really excited for the opportunity for two more years.”
Sulphur Parks and Recreation will host the softball, baseball and swimming tournament for the next two years, while the Burton Coliseum keeps boys basketball for two more seasons.
Hammond kept soccer and girls basketball. Power lifting will move from Monroe to Lafayette, and wrestling moves from Baton Rouge to Shreveport. Monroe retained the state tennis tournament.
The bid to keep softball, which has been in Sulphur for more than two decades, faced strong competition from Ruston and its new facilities, Zartler said, but ultimately the proximity of hotels and restaurants was a major factor.
“In softball, we haven’t really had any competition in the last four or five bid cycles,” Zartler said. “Alexandria was the only one bidding against us for a while, and they finally threw in the towel.
“It has really just been us by default the last several years. Ruston made a pretty strong investment in facilities and things like that. They have some beautiful facilities up there, but at the end of the day, the infrastructure and surrounding community is something that is big to those events.
“People don’t want to have to travel 30- 40 minutes to get to a hotel, restaurant, or anything else. We have those things right here in Southwest Louisiana between Sulphur and Lake Charles.”
Zartler estimated that the total economic impact from the four tournaments is more than $4 million.
Zartler said he expects the current format of semis and finals for baseball and softball to remain the same, but the bid did include that they would be open to bringing back the quarterfinals or hosting select and non-select schools again if the LHSAA moves in that direction.
“We haven’t heard anything on that yet,” Zartler said. “We would love to see that go back to a 56-team format if the opportunity presents itself. We are ready for the challenge.
“To our knowledge, it is just the non-selections right now. Again, if they would make the decision that they want to bring the selects back, we would be all ears and definitely open to accommodating that.
“At the end of the day, it is all about the experience for the student-athlete. I think that we provide a great atmosphere for those events.”