YOUNGSVILLE — Youngsville’s former Mayor Wilson Viator smiled widely over the weekend as he surveyed a crowded Youngsville Sports Complex.
The complex, a 70-acre multipurpose park that Viator championed for years and became a reality in June 2014, was the host site for an international event, the 2015 PONY Mustang League World Series. The series ran for four days — from Thursday through Sunday.
“Hopefully, this is the first of many to come,” said Viator, who retired from public office in early 2015 after three terms.
The tournament brought in 9- and 10-year-old baseball players, their families and coaches from as far away as the Philippines, Mexico, Hawaii and other U.S. states. All-stars from the Broussard Youngsville Youth Association — the BYYA team — played, too, acting as the ceremonial host team.
The park, which features fields for softball, baseball, soccer, tennis and other activities, opened in June 2014 and has since steadily increased its schedule of tournaments.
Mayor Ken Ritter, who was sworn into office in January, said while the World Series would not bring as many people to Youngsville as some of the other tournaments, it still was a boon to the city.
“In my opinion, this is the most prestigious one we’ve had,” Ritter said.
Ritter said complex Director Tim Robichaux applied with the Mustang League to bring the tournament in Youngsville. Using money ponied up by the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission to pay tournament bid fees, Robichaux was successful, Ritter said.
“But it was the facility that helped sell it” to Mustang League officials, Ritter said.
Youngsville residents in November 2011 voted to levy a 1-cent sales tax to pay to build the $15.4 million facility and the costs of running it.
“We’ve since had several new restaurants open, and they’re busy,” Viator said. “The stores, too, are noticing the difference.”
Located on acreage in a bend of Chemin Metairie Parkway, land that was donated by Young Industries, the fields lie about a mile south of the Hot Dawg Stop and Twins Burgers and Sweets.
Managers of both restaurants said they do all right during periods when nothing is going on at the complex. But it’s the weekend tournament crowds that make the registers sing.
“It was actually one of the reasons we chose to set up here,” said Hot Dawg Stop owner Brian Aucoin.
Aucoin opened the eatery in July 2014. He said that during tournaments Hot Dawg Stop employees place menus in the complex parking lot, which brings in parents, coaches and hungry kids after the games.
Just a few doors down from Aucoin’s shop is Twins Burgers and Sweets, which too enjoys robust crowds during tournaments.
“We’re thankful and grateful,” Twins manager Scott Knight said this past week.
Viator said several businesses have set up shop in Youngsville because of the complex.
Now what’s needed is a place for them to stay, Viator and Aucoin said.
“We desperately need someone to come in here and build a hotel,” Viator said.
During the world series, the teams and PONY Mustang League officials lodged in Lafayette hotels.
“All the people staying have to stay in Lafayette,” Viator said.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 9 a.m. Aug. 10, 2015, to correct that the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission was the source of money to pay tournament bid fees.