Let the Games Begin!

By: Renee' LaSalle and Lindsey Brown
By: Renee' LaSalle and Lindsey Brown

Hotels all over Meridian are booked and local officials say the restaurants will be packed as well, because of The State Games of Mississippi. More than 5,000 athletes are expected to attend.

State Games officials say each athlete brings an average of 2.5 people and that adds up to quite a crowd. In 2002, an economic impact study said The State Games brought $5.5 million to our local economy.

The games have grown in those four years and executive director April Luke says they're hoping for even more.

"The cities will be full. The restaurants will be full. Hotels are full. We've put some out in Quitman. We've put them in Forest. We've put them in Scooba, Neshoba County. So we know hotels are full up to a 30 - 40 mile radius," Luke said.

The Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau is geared up for the crowd, packing every available venue with information about local attractions. Guest services liaison Withrow Newell says The State Games pack out the city year after year.

"Last year when State Games were going on, I just didn't go out to eat. Every restaurant was booked. Every one had a line of kids running out of them," Newell said. "So, I mean everywhere gets a boost, even the mall and, you know, there's kids going out to the theater and all of that so, I mean, it's helping us out."

Newell says The State Games is one of the biggest events hosted here and he says it can only get bigger.

The State Games has expanded over the years, with Philadelphia now hosting events. The city will host youth and high school baseball, Choctaw stickball and barrel racing.

Philadelphia Mayor Rayburn Waddell says The State Games will bring in thousands of people to Philadelphia. Area hotels are already full and that's revenue the city welcomes.

"It gives us the opportunity to showcase Philadelphia and Neshoba County. It brings in tourism dollars, hotels get full the month of June, so were just glad we can accommodate State Games and have them in Philadelphia," Waddell said.

Events will be held at Neshoba Central High School, Neshoba County Coliseum, Burnside Park, and the fields at the Choctaw Reservation.

"They're going to spend money and we get tax dollars," Waddell said.
"Get income tax and sales tax. It's pretty big for us. We get a lot of tax money from it."

Waddell says he's glad to see more variety come to Philadelphia. And he feels certain The State Games will provide something all in the community can enjoy.

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