SLU football success creates economic boost for Tangipahoa Parish

No pressure, coach Ron Roberts, but Tangipahoa Parish leaders are counting on another strong season after Southeastern Louisiana University’s 2013 Football Championship Subdivision playoff run delivered an $835,000 boost to the parish economy.

The Lions went 11-3 last year while capturing the school’s first Southland Conference championship and advancing to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

Community and business leaders gathered at a Hammond Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday to hear the results of a study on the economic impact of the team’s two home playoff games against Sam Houston State University on Dec. 7 and the University of New Hampshire on Dec. 14.

The study, conducted by Southeastern’s Business Research Center, estimated more than 4,300 visiting fans, athletes and support personnel delivered $645,000 of that boost, mostly through the purchase of food and drinks. The rest of the economic boost came as a ripple effect as that money was re-spent in the parish.

The study used ticket sales, hotel data and other college football economic impact studies to estimate how much the visitors directly spent and how those dollars “rippled through” the parish’s overall economy.

Those effects were keenly felt at Hammond Square, chamber Chairwoman Donna Taylor said.

Taylor, who is vice president of asset management for Stirling Properties, which manages Hammond Square, said a poll of the shopping center’s retailers showed sales were up, not only at restaurants but across the board.

Retailers were “very excited about everything that’s going on here in the community,” Taylor said. “So, coach, you better do good next year.”

Hammond Mayor Mayson Foster said the team’s entire season paralleled the city’s sales tax collections.

In September, the team recorded two losses, and tax collections dropped 0.43 percent below the same month in 2012 — the first time collections had been down in more than a year.

The team’s eight wins in October and November were met with rising collections, up 4.83 percent and 5.72 percent respectively, Foster said.

“In December, we gave it our best shot,” Foster said. “But those Northerners came in, and we were in the game but it just didn’t happen. We were down 2.56 percent.”

“So, coach,” Foster jokingly pleaded, “keep winning. We need it.”

Carla Tate, executive director of the Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the bureau has always recognized the university as a major economic driver for tourism in the parish.

“The 2013 season just made that impact more visible to the public,” Tate said. “So, coach, you know, 2014, we’re looking for us to be standing back up here again talking about the boost that you brought to Hammond and Tangipahoa Parish.”

SLU Athletic Director Jay Artigues said the team’s accomplishments in 2013 are driving demand for season tickets for next season, when two games will be regionally televised and bring even more exposure for the program and university.

The playoff run also helped increase the caliber of players the football team has been able to recruit and created a campus atmosphere more conducive for recruiting players in other sports.

“How football goes helps us all,” Artigues said. “The bar is raised. There’s no question about it.”