The business of sports continues to grow, diversify in Baton Rouge

It’s no secret that sports have been a big business in Baton Rouge for decades, thanks largely to the successful endeavors of LSU and Southern on their respective playing fields. But as Business Report details in its new cover story, the economic impact of sports in the Capital City goes well beyond the Tigers and Jaguars.

In addition to thriving sports leagues for all ages in virtually every sport, Baton Rouge annually hosts a wide range of sporting events that bring in a hefty infusion of tourism dollars and national exposure. Throw in growing markets in recreational sports, sports medicine and even trophy sales, and you’ve got a major economic engine that business and city leaders say is continuing to grow.

Since 2006, sporting events lured here by the Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation have helped generate an economic impact of more than $304 million—largely spent at hotels and restaurants—in the Capital Region.

In 2015 alone, that number reached an all-time high of $34,196,036—and 2016 has already surpassed that mark thanks to a strong first quarter, says Eric Engemann, vice president of the foundation, which is tasked with increasing sports-related tourism in the city.

“It can be a pretty significant economic driver,” Engemann says. “From an economic impact standpoint, just a dollars and cents standpoint, it certainly has a very large appeal to mayors and city councils all over the country.”

But the local sports economy is much broader than just events.

Long a home of locally owned shops like Varsity Sports and Red Stick Sports, more sports-minded entrepreneurs are gradually making their mark in Baton Rouge. Think Marucci Sports, which has grown into Major League Baseball’s biggest bat supplier, and Traction Sports, a sports performance facility aiming to increase its presence across the South.

Robert Munson is another example. A veteran business, political and sports strategist, Munson teamed up in July with Washington, D.C.-based Sanderson Strategies Group to form SSG Sports, a sports consulting firm based in Baton Rouge that already counts MLB as a major client.

“We really see Baton Rouge as potential hub for sports business in the South,” Munson says. “As a company, we’ve worked with MLB teams, NBA teams, NFL teams, individual athletes and collegiate programs. We see opportunity in a lot of those same areas right here in Louisiana.”

The biggest obstacle in the way for more growth in Baton Rouge’s sports market will be competition. Other cities are ramping up their sports infrastructure, such as Westfield, Indiana, a rural suburb of Indianapolis that built a sprawling 400-acre complex called Grand Park that’s jam-packed with dozens of baseball and soccer fields, basketball courts, indoor facilities and everything else imaginable.

Read the complete cover package, which includes stories on the growth of Baton Rouge sporting events; businesses that are finding success by focusing on a single sport; the thriving sports medicine industry; a look at how trophy businesses in Baton Rouge are benefitting from the “everyone is a winner” mentality”; and a full Q&A with Munson. You can also check out a feature on the items in LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri’s office. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

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