Hosting the Conference USA Baseball Tournament results in thousands of dollars for local and state coffers, according to the research of a recent University of Southern Mississippi graduate.
Kyle Stoner of Gulfport, Miss. conducted his honors thesis on the topic, titled “The Economic Impact of the 2015 Conference USA Baseball Tournament in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.” Stoner’s research, using EMSI (Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.) modeling found that visitors who attended the tournament spent approximately $2.7 million in the Hattiesburg area during their stay. These visitors included supporters of Southern Miss and other teams participating in the tournament.
The EMSI modeling showed this spending resulted in a change in earnings in the local economy of $648,211, as well as $9,757 for the general fund for the state of Mississippi and $54,964 in local sales taxes. Stoner is hopeful USM’s prowess on the diamond this year and increased spending by fans in Hattiesburg for the tournament this week will translate to even better numbers for 2016.
“The increased success of the baseball team and record attendance figures throughout the 2016 season suggest Southern Miss faithful should produce a large amount of people to the local area, Stoner said. “However, the economic impact of an event is determined by the out of town visitors to an area. This magnitude of the event’s economic impact will depend on how many visitors come from outside the Hattiesburg area, either for Southern Miss or for another team.”
Ranked 20th in the country, Southern Miss is hosting the tournament for the third straight year this week at Pete Taylor Park on the Hattiesburg campus. USM, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Marshal and North Carolina-Charlotte qualified to participate in this year’s event, set for May 25-29. Attendance in 2016 for Southern Miss regular season home baseball games averaged approximately 3,100.
Lodging and food and beverage expenditures, due to the frequency and amount of those transactions, make up the largest portion of visitor spending within a local area, Stoner said. “It’s important not only for visitors to come to a local area but also be enticed by the local infrastructure to stay and eat local.”
Stoner is currently a graduate student in the USM Master of Professional Accountancy program, and will join PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in New Orleans as an audit/assurance associate following his graduation from the program in May 2017.
He said partnerships between local business and government that highlight the local area and events at USM can help make their location attractive as a destination for athletics competition like the Conference USA baseball tournament, or other events such as conferences, festivals and concerts.
“An economic impact can come from any event put on at or by the university or city. It is important in the future to be able to adequately attract visitors to the area who will spend within the local area,” Stoner said.
Dr. Chad Miller, associate professor and graduate coordinator of the Masters of Science in Economic Development Program at USM, served as co-advisor for Stoner’s thesis project, along with his colleague Dr. Sungsoo Kim. Miller said that communities are realizing that non-professional sporting events, such as the one Stoner studied, provide a nice economic jolt to the economy.” “It’s not just college towns that are hosting non-professional sporting tournaments,” Miller said. “Communities around the state are investing in athletic fields and facilities, so it’s important to provide data to help communities make wise public investment decisions.”
Stoner said due to a lack of specific literature, aside from studies completed by independent firms, collegiate impacts on a local community are not as well researched academically as sporting events such as the Olympics or Super Bowl. Based on the impacts found in his study and the limited knowledge available, he believes it can be suggested that events on the small scale such as a baseball tournament can have positive economic impacts on mid-sized cities such as Hattiesburg, as long as the area is well equipped to capture the spending of visitors within the local area through entertainment, lodging, and food and drink.
Other independent studies completed by research firms, Stoner said, may indicate that athletic departments as a whole encompass a significantly larger economic impact on a local area. “If this is researched more, it could add another argument in the debate regarding the profitability of athletic departments as a whole,” he said.
John Neal, owner of Keg and Barrel Brewpub, said Southern Miss sports is an integral part of the success of his business. “We’re excited about USM hosting the conference tournament again this year, and are ready for the added business this week,” Neal said.
“Special sports tournaments, such as Conference USA and NCAA regional baseball tournaments, are an important part of the sports mix that brings new visitors and new spending to Hattiesburg,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Tourism/Convention Commissions. “We congratulate USM on their success in both baseball and the bidding process for these tournaments.”
Stoner said his research project opened his eyes to the success of the USM baseball program when compared to others around the league and nation. “We have a premier facility with well-trained, hardworking staff, who showcase our university and the city of Hattiesburg masterfully,” he said. “Additionally, we have fantastic support of this program from our alumni and fans who make this success possible.”
For information about the 2016 C-USA Tournament, visit http://www.conferenceusa.com/championships/m-basebl-championship-16.html.