The Meridian Star
Opening ceremonies for the State Games of Mississippi will kick off June 14 on the grounds of City Hall in Meridian.
Billed as the state's "largest statewide amateur sports-fest," the 22nd annual state games will feature 37 events that will take place during all five weekends in June.
There are 23 individual sporting events, such as a .22 rifle competition, junior golf, swimming and track and field, to name a few. Eighteen of the 23 individual sporting events will take place in Meridian or Lauderdale County.
Nine of the 14 team sporting events, such as volleyball, flag football and baseball, will also be in Meridian or Lauderdale County.
That's 27 of the 37 sporting events across the state that will take place here. Some of the remaining 10 events will be in nearby communities.
Choctaw Central High School, for example, will host stickball and youth basketball.
Event organizers estimate that the Mississippi State Games will attract more than 5,000 athletes from across the state, most of whom will compete here.
If you add in family members of athletes and spectators, the number of people visiting the area for the state games will be substantial, which will be a boon for area hotels, restaurants, convenience stores and retail shops.
Dollars generated each year from the event have continued to grow.
Dr. Habib Bazyari, professor emeritus with Mississippi State University, has conducted several studies of the economic impact of the state games.
Bazyari's last study was in 2011. The results from that study estimated a $6.5 million economic impact in 2011 to Meridian, Lauderdale County and communities located within a 60-mile radius from here.
That figure was up $2.5 million from 2004, when the estimated economic impact from the state games was $4 million, according to estimates from an earlier study by Bazyari.
In 2011, an estimated $286,000 was spent at local hotels alone during the state games, generating $35,000 in tax revenues. An estimated 15,000 athletes and spectators attended the events that year.
State Games of Mississippi organizers predicted last week that this year's games will be the largest in the event's 22-year history, with added sporting events and more athletes participating.
“With more athletes come more sports and people involved,” State Games Marketing Director Leslie Lee said. “As long as we have that community involvement and the corporate responsibilities of our local businesses and cooperations that support us and help us out financially, we will be able to grow.”
Kudos to those businesses sponsoring this year's state games. We hope, as does Lee, that community support will continue to grow and that more businesses will step up as sponsors.
Not only do the state games provide a much needed economic boost, they also expose the area to residents from throughout the state.
In addition, the State Games of Mississippi is a member of the National Congress of State Games and is affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is something in which all Mississippi residents can take pride.
And perhaps most important of all are the athletes who have worked hard to achieve the level of success necessary to compete in the state games. They deserve our recognition and support.
We thank event organizers, sponsors and all of those involved in bringing the State Games of Mississippi to our area.
Let the games begin.