Youth soccer is big business for Baton Rouge

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POSTED: Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 10:41pm

UPDATED: Friday, June 27, 2014 - 10:47pm

There was no way to rain on the parade of the US Youth Soccer Regional Tournament this week.

Thousands of kids hit the field for a spot in the national championship. But the big winner was the City of Baton Rouge.

Play wrapped up Thursday morning after a week full of matches at BREC Burbank Park.

"It was great for us, Baton Rouge Soccer," said Brett Malone, Director of Recreation for Baton Rouge Soccer Club. "Being able to be on that regional map is a great thing, and we're proud to represent Louisiana."

Malone said everything worked logistically as well as it possibly could have, including the weather.

"Some people were saying it was a little hot, but for most of us that live here in South Louisiana, it was actually kind of nice over the few days," he stated. "Definitely was hot. Very few injuries, though, from the heat, which is a blessing in itself. And then today, we got the games in, we got the games in yesterday, so it hasn't been a bad deal."

The tournament was also great for local businesses.

"You know, I could say it doubled our normal summer weekend business," said Andy McKay, manager at Sammy's Grill on Highland Road, "and then throughout the week, definitely had spikes, so it was good."

The tournament brought 14,000 people to the city from around the south. Hotels from St. Francisville to Livingston to Gonzales reported being at full occupancy because of the tournament. By one estimate, the tournament brought $18 million to the area at a time when the influx of visitors really helps.

"I mean, our summer weekends slow down a little bit," McKay stated. "I mean, we still do well, but I mean the numbers we were doing were right up there with our peak crawfish season numbers. So it was good."

"Kids have been out and about, and the feedback from that has been huge, the fact that soccer is bringing that to Baton Rouge, and it's not something you would normally think bringing that much economic impact in," Malone added.

The out of town visitors asked for a taste of south Louisiana when they ate at Sammy's.

"This late in the season, we usually see a drop-off (in crawfish sales)," McKay mentioned. "We had a lot of crawfish interest, we sold a lot of crawfish etouffee and catfish."

There were close to 200 teams, from as far as Texas on one side and North Carolina on the other side. They all benefited the hosts, Baton Rouge Soccer Club, just by showing up. The club made more than $40,000 off parking alone.

"It makes our facilities better, which in turn pays it back to our membership. You know, we definitely want to be up for these type of events in the future, and hopefully continue to get the opportunity to host such prestigious events."

Baton Rouge Soccer Club had some rare success on the field, too. Two of the club's teams made it to the quarterfinals.

"It's actually very few and far between that when Louisiana teams can break bracket," Malone stated. "Kind of like how everybody talks about the USA this year (in the World Cup). For us to be able to break bracket, it's always history, it's an accomplishment, and we were very proud of these boys and girls that were able to do that."   

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