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State Games show $5.5 million impact

By By William F. West / community editor
Nov. 8, 2002
Meridian businessman Abdul Lala knows first-hand the impact of the 2002 State Games of Mississippi.
Lala's motels and the rest of Meridian's restaurant, retail and tourism businesses felt a $5.5 million impact from last year's State Games of Mississippi, according to a new study conducted by Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus and announced on Thursday.
Lala said one of his motels, the 53-room Comfort Inn, is already nearly booked for the 2003 State Games of Mississippi. He also said several reservations have been made at two of his other motels, the 112-room Quality Inn and the 61-room Econo Lodge.
State Games of Mississippi is a statewide sports festival held in Meridian each June.
The event, patterned after the Olympics, is for amateur athletes of all ages and abilities. It promotes health and fitness through friendly, family-oriented, athletic competition.
The MSU-Meridian study was based on surveys of randomly selected samples of athletes and spectators at each of the sporting venues. Surveys were also mailed to coaches and participants.
To Carolyn Smith, senior vice president of Trustmark Bank in Meridian and vice chairman of the State Games of Mississippi, the results of the economic impact study were not surprising.
Smith, asked which cities want the State Games of Mississippi, laughed and replied: "I wouldn't dare say."
Good economic impact
Smith said the event is so big that some sporting events, such as basketball games, spill over into neighboring Newton County.
The economic impact study is a follow-up to one conducted in 1998, which found an economic impact of $3.9 million.
The study said the impact resulted from the expansion from one weekend of competition to two full weekends and an increase in participants from 4,600 athletes to 5,000 athletes.
The study also said Meridian hosted 10,000 spectators at this year's games, up from 9,000 in 1998.
Sandy Bynum, executive director of the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau, said such a study is a boost when promoting the city and county.
Bynum said her office received more good news this week a pair of matching grants from the Mississippi Development Authority to advertise the 2003 State Games of Mississippi.
Bynum said one grant, for $2,003, will help pay for promotional items such as posters, while another grant, for $22,820, will help pay for broadcast and newspaper advertising.