Columbus will host Mississippi’s largest youth soccer tournament again in 2016.
Greg Lewis, the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Director, confirmed to The Dispatch on Thursday that the city won the bid to host the 2016 President’s Cup.
When the city hosted the event in 2014, approximately 125 teams from every corner of the state came to town. The event brought around $1.2 million of economic impact, according to Columbus-Lowndes Visitors Bureau Director Nancy Carpenter.
“We filled up all the hotels in Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha County,” Lewis said.
Teams participating in the tournament pay $300-$450 to play, depending on their age group. Teams ranging in age from under-10 to under-19 participate. The tournament is being held in Tupelo on May 16-17 this year.
Lewis said while a cap was placed on 125 teams in 2014, as many as 150 teams could compete in the 2016 tournament. With lots of economic impact on the line, cities must aggressively compete to earn the right to host tournaments. In Columbus, that responsibility falls with the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“We could not have done it without Nancy Carpenter and the CVB,” Lewis said, adding that anywhere from six to 10 cities typically bid on these tournaments,
“We are very competitive and we do want people to come to our soccer complex,” Carpenter said.
She added that the 2014 President’s Cup had all local hotels at 98 percent capacity — the highest it has ever been.
Carpenter said the CVB board spent a little less than $20,000 on the tournament last year. This included lodging and meals for officials, field space and creating information material for guests such as maps to all the fields in use (Joe Cook Elementary and Columbus High School hosted games, in addition to the soccer complex) and lists of local restaurants. The return on the investment wasn’t too shabby.
“A very, very conservative estimate would be $1.2 million — easily,” Carpenter said of economic impact from the 2014 President’s Cup.
When figuring out return on investment, Carpenter said the CVB tries to figure out how many people will accompany each child. They estimate each person will spend just over $200 per day in the area on lodging, dining and shopping. That spending showed up in last May’s daily spending average at local shops and restaurants, which shot up to $144,842, according to Carpenter.
The large economic impact makes such tournaments a big score for communities, and as such cities like Tupelo, Oxford, DeSoto County and Hattiesburg pursue the tournaments with zeal.
“We understand what makes the officials happy and what makes the state officials happy,” Carpenter said.
The CVB board annually budgets around $40,000 for soccer, according to Carpenter.