LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The United States boxing national championships and trials for the 2020 Olympics are coming to Lake Charles in December.
“This is going to be the largest single sporting event in Lake Charles' history,” said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter.
The boxing trials will be held Dec. 10-15.
It’s the first Olympic trials hosted in Louisiana in 27 years. New Orleans last hosted the 1992 Track and Field Olympic trials at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“When they come to Lake Charles, they will be the top dog," said Eric Zartler, sales director for the Lake Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau. "They are going to get more attention than they have ever known.”
It’s that type of passion that allowed the Convention and Visitors Bureau to land the eight-day event.
“One of my calls was with USA boxing and they presented this opportunity and I was like, ‘Wow, you’re talking about Vegas and Dallas. Those are major cities, but we fit the bill for everything you are looking for here, so what do you think our chances are,’ " Zartler said he asked the committee. "They said to submit a bid— so I did.”
The city's strategy of rolling out the red carpet paid off and the underdog won the bid.
“That’s the type of community we are and that’s the type of people that are here. I think that is so important in landing events like this," admitted Zartler. "You don’t see that same type of community pride in some of the bigger cities.”
Michael Campbell, manager of USA Boxing Operations and Events, was attracted immediately to the area.
“The biggest thing about Lake Charles is the hospitality," Campbell said. “Not only do we want to bring our participants to a place that they feel welcome, but we also want lots of options. There is great weather and great food. The best food in the country is Cajun cuisine. It’ll be a great experience for our participants and the community.”
But what does landing the events mean for the Lake Area?
“You look at over one thousand boxers coming in, about six hundred coaches and trainers and you have the families of all of them. You’re looking at over sixty-five hundred rooms over an eight-day period," Zartler said. "There is no other event that we have ever hosted in this area that can even compare to that.”
For reference, the high school state softball championships are believed to be the area’s largest annual sporting event. The Fast Pitch tournament reserves about 2,000 rooms each year.
The Olympic Boxing Trials? More than three times that.
“That means thousands of people eating in our restaurants and using other local businesses and that’s huge for the local economy,” said Mayor Hunter. "The impact of this one event for our area is going to be in excess of $2 million.”
The Civic Center will be the site for the events with two sessions per day starting Tuesday, Dec. 10 and wrapping up with the elite division that Sunday. With four rings and the top amateur boxers in the country, there will be no shortage of action.
“It’s really a sensory overload. There’s going to be a lot of boxing going on all over and you were going to see every age group, both male and female," said Campbell. "We will have peewee boxers as young as eight years old, all the way up to the elite division, which is 19 to 40.”
In addition to the economic impact, landing an event of this magnitude was also about sending a message.
“We are trying to erase the stigma that other cities along the I-10 corridor or other cities in the South can do great things, but Lake Charles can’t," Mayor Hunter stated. "This is just more proof that Lake Charles is heading in the right direction”
Zartler said the city is hoping to become the permanent home of the USA boxing national championships— and every four years, the Olympic trials.
“I think this event will pave the way and show people that Lake Charles is capable of hosting more than just a state championship.”