Kip Holden’s attire let the secret leak out before he stepped behind a lectern Wednesday.
Clad in navy and white warm-ups and hat from the U.S. Bowling Congress, the Baton Rouge mayor-president confirmed the hint at the River Center when he announced the return of the USBC’s Women’s Open Tournament in 2017 and the city’s fourth opportunity to host the marathon Open Championship tournament in 2025.
“They’ve fallen in love with Baton Rouge,” Holden said.
At the same time as Holden’s announcement, made with officials from Visit Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation, the USBC revealed Baton Rouge would be joined in winning a bid along with Syracuse, N.Y., which will host the Open Championship tournament in 2018.
“We understand the importance of bringing the Open Championships east and feel our bowlers will be very happy with these selections,” USBC Executive Director Stu
Upson said in a statement. “Syracuse and Baton Rouge have been great partner cities, and we are thrilled to have the event visit these regions once again.”
The Open Tournament, which is billed as the largest participatory sports event in the world, runs over the course of 4½ months, involving up to 60,000 bowlers in singles, doubles and team competitions.
Last year, Baton Rouge-based SCI Research estimated 58,704 bowlers visited the city for the tournament, which ran from Feb. 11 until the finals on July 10 at the Baton Rouge River Center.
A study showed the boon provided by the tournament, which the city first hosted in 2005, generated an estimated $113.2 million in economic impact, highlighted by $35.6 million for area hotels along with $27.4 million to the food service industry.
“The impact is just absolutely tremendous, and Baton Rouge should be thankful for the relationship we have with the USBC,” Holden said. “The one thing they all leave with is saying the people in Baton Rouge are the nicest people we’ve met in our life.”
The Women’s Open arrives first, bringing in between 30,000 and 40,000 bowlers over a 90-120 period. A year ago, Syracuse hosted the event, which reportedly generated $38 million in economic impact for the city.
Baton Rouge hosted the event once before in 1993, but Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo said the windfall from hosting it five years from now should surpass the figures from two decades ago.
“Since then, we’ve had the Mall of Louisiana open, Perkins Rowe open along with the Town Center open. There’s more shopping opportunities and more entertainment opportunities than we had in 1993 for the women,” Arrigo said.
City and tourism officials wasted little time trying to put Baton Rouge into the championship rotation last year, starting negotiations while the 2012 tournament was in full swing. Arrigo said those talks continued in August and October with the formal deal being wrapped up a week ago.
“They wanted to come back to Baton Rouge because of the success they had here, and they’re very comfortable working with the mayor and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation,” Arrigo said. “We thought that they could make it happen.”
Any potential impact from the event also stretches over a prolonged period, creating a sustained stimulus while also ensuring a high volume of visitor traffic for the city.
“The great thing about USBC is you’ve got this tremendous number of people coming to your city over a spread-out time period,” Arrigo said. “It doesn’t put a lot of strain on traffic in the restaurants or what have you. It’s certainly advantageous to bring in groups like this.”
Similar to its 2012 bid, the city will provide the USBC with a subsidy, which Arrigo dubbed as a sponsorship fee, ranging between $1.3 million and $2.1 million.
“It’s on a sliding scale based on their performance and the number of rooms they pick up and the number of people they register,” Arrigo said. “That was part of our negotiation with them, but certainly well worth the investment we had.”