Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana has been proudly known as the Youth Sports Capital of Louisiana for more than 20 years.
Kathryn Shea Duncan, media/public relations manager at Visit Lake Charles, noted there’s a large audience for baseball and softball in the region and local families who are extremely active in promoting youth sports So, it was a natural fit for the convention and visitors bureau to pursue youth sports, especially with the abundance of facilities available in the area.
“The amount of community support, volunteers and general excitement from local media about tournaments makes events memorable for the student-athletes and fans,” Shea Duncan said. “The CVB is committed to excellence, and our seasoned staff pulls out all the stops to make teams feel welcome.”
Lake Charles has played host to close to 100 different sporting events annually at its 61 baseball fields, 50 basketball courts, 25 football fields, eight 18-hole golf courses, 45 soccer fields and 59 softball fields. And there are also top-notch swimming and wrestling facilities, tennis and volleyball courts, and track and field stadiums.
“The biggest draw is our youth and high school diamond facilities,” Shea Duncan said. “We have a vast inventory of artificial surface diamond fields for all-weather play!”
“As the sales director for Visit Lake Charles, the main market that I manage revolves around sports. From baseball to softball and swimming to basketball — including Olympic boxing. I am passionate about what I do. I want everyone who comes to Southwest Louisiana to leave on a high note, even the teams who do not taste victory; my goal is that they have a positive experience and cannot wait to come back to the area to try again. The people of Southwest Louisiana are welcoming, and the culture of hospitality runs deep.”
—Eric Zartler, sales director, Visit Lake Charles
Naturally, with southwest Louisiana being highly competitive as a destination for youth sports, other nearby areas have used what Visit Lake Charles does as a barometer. Shea Duncan said the bureau is constantly looking at innovative ways to do things, provide new opportunities and keep facilities updated.
“Looking to the future, Visit Lake Charles wants to be even more competitive in the marketplace,” Shea Duncan said. “So, as new technology or materials become available to enhance facilities, we are at the forefront of developing the destination to be able to host more events.”
Grant funds are available for tournament directors looking to bring events to southwest Louisiana. The staff at Visit Lake Charles also assists with room blocks and in working with local facilities. Other services include public relations, media management, volunteers, publicity and promotional items. While in Lake Charles, youth groups will have many options for spending free time. The area is brimming with delicious mom-and-pop restaurants. Young people can enjoy many outdoor entertainment venues and a myriad of outdoor adventures from paddle boarding to lighted bike tours or adventures along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, including four wildlife refuges. Southwest Louisiana is also home to a thriving arts community.