Softball: Super Regional brings brisk business, lifts local spirits
Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, May 24, 2014
Winners in Lafayette may extend well beyond the softball field this weekend, with the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional softball series in town.
There’s a campus to boost, hotel rooms to rent, fan gear to sell. And, beyond the bottom line, the scheduled series promises to make winners of all of us, simply by lifting our spirits.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, who are 48-8-1, are battling the Arizona Wildcats, 44-15, in the Super Regional. They got to this point by virtue of winning the regional at Lamson Park last weekend, competing against Texas, Mississippi State and Texas Southern. Beat Arizona, and UL will advance to the World Series. And that creates plenty of excitement.
"We will have ESPN here today and tomorrow with about 100 million viewers watching who can not only learn a little about our great program and institution but also the area," Scott Farmer, director of athletics for the Ragin’ Cajuns, said Friday. "And that’s the kind of exposure that’s just hard to buy.
"What it does is it exposes the nation to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and to the Acadiana area."
UL expects some 4,000 fans to pack the games this weekend. That means business on a holiday weekend that’s usually pretty sleepy, economic experts say. Ben Bertholot, executive director of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, said based on its sports economic impact calculator, the LCVC believes the economic impact of this weekend’s series will be about $600,000.
Danielle Duplantis, sales manager for the Hilton hotel on West Pinhook, said her facility will feel the good effects from that business boost. Room rentals were brisk this week, with three dozen linked to the softball team, another 20 rented by friends and family of the team and 30 rooms rented — since Wednesday — to ESPN, which is televising the series.
"It has definitely had a positive impact," Duplantis said.
Sarah Armentor, assistant director of the UL Bookstore and RedZone, couldn’t keep up with the number of UL softball tournament, regional and super regional conference T-shirts that have been ordered and sold because the number is constantly growing.
"It’s one of those things where everything starts to culminate," Armentor said. "You couldn’t have asked for a better athletic year. Yes, people are coming in for softball stuff, but everybody just wants to be a Ragin’ Cajun, and we’re more than happy to provide them with the gear for that."
Tournament and conference T-shirts are designed about a month ahead of time on an "if-win basis," and conversations with the printing company begin as soon as it becomes clear that UL will end up on top.
"Saturday when they won, everybody got around and said, ‘It looks like it’s going to happen,’" Armentor said. "Sunday, emails are flooding out and calls are being made. And the orders are made first thing Monday morning."
The same process will happen this weekend with super regional conference T-shirts if UL wins.
"It’s work to win," Armentor said with a laugh.
More than sales are trending sky high, though. Tickets to this weekend series are red-hot, and the excitement and national exposure is good for the community psyche, said Gregg Gothreaux, president of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.
"It’s very obvious these are the hottest tickets in town," he said. "A lot of people can’t get into these games."
Gothreaux said the economic impact will have the effect of a "significant football event," although the final numbers won’t be known for a couple of months, when sales tax numbers are reported.
Gothreaux praised the softball team’s "dedicated following," and said the buzz around the team is everywhere.
"That’s great for how the community feels about themselves," he said.