New Orleans is a step closer to landing the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament, but it’s got plenty of company.
The New Orleans Zephyrs announced Monday that Zephyr Field is a finalist to host the event and will receive a site visit from SEC officials Saturday. The league will also visit or has visited other finalists Memphis, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida, a source told The Advocate. The event’s home for the past 18 years — Hoover, Alabama — also is a finalist.
Those five cities submitted bids in February to host future SEC baseball tournaments starting in 2017.
An SEC representative declined comment Monday regarding the list of finalists.
The Zephyrs are hosting the Memphis Redbirds at 6 p.m. Saturday during the SEC’s site visit. The team is offering a special ticket discount for the game. By using the promo code “SEC” (all caps) when purchasing through Ticketmaster.com, fans will receive $5 admission.
The New Orleans Sports Foundation and the Zephyrs submitted the bid Feb. 24. The bid included a financial and business plan for the event. The plan includes renovations to the potential host site, Metairie’s Zephyr Field, a 20-year-old, 11,000-seat stadium hosting the Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
The SEC sent bidding specifics to about 12 southern cities earlier in the winter. Only five are known to have bid.
New Orleans submitted a bid in 2011, the last time the contract between the SEC and Hoover was winding down. It did not receive a site visit from SEC officials then. Memphis, considered a favorite to take the tournament from Hoover in 2011, received a site visit.
The league ultimately decided to keep the tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, a 10,500-seat stadium in the Birmingham suburbs.
Hoover agreed on several upgrades to the park. A new sound system was installed, and repairs to the dugouts and restrooms were made.
The contract with Hoover is winding down again. It ends after this year’s tournament, scheduled for May 24-29. The SEC is expected to award the bid for future tournaments around the time of this year’s event.
LSU baseball fans are known to flock to Hoover for the conference tournament. The Tigers have won five of the past eight SEC tournaments, dominating the event under coach Paul Mainieri. LSU’s 11 tournament titles are a league high.
The last time the event was held in some place other than Hoover was 1997 in Columbus, Georgia. Since expansion in 1992, only three cities have hosted the event: Hoover, Columbus (1997) and New Orleans (1992). From 1993-95, the SEC used divisional tournament formats, with Baton Rouge/Columbia, South Carolina (1993), Lexington, Kentucky/Oxford, Mississippi (1994) and Knoxville, Tennessee/Starkville, Mississippi (1995) hosting.
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