NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When a record New Orleans Bowl crowd of well over 50,000 files into the Superdome to see Tulane play Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday night, it will mark the latest success of an institution created a quarter century ago with the hope of making the Big Easy a premier sports tourism destination.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation this week is celebrating 25 years in the business of luring multi-million-dollar events to south Louisiana, from Super Bowls to Final Fours, fishing tournaments and even Olympic trials.
"This business has come from a time when New Orleans could win events just based upon the fact it had so many hotel rooms and the Superdome within walking distance of the French Quarter ... to what is now a real business proposition with enhancements and incentives that have to beat other cities' bids," said Jay Cicero, the foundation's executive director. "We pool so many resources together, not only to make financial offers, but so that, operationally, we can execute better than almost anybody."
The competition Cicero described was evident in this month, when New Orleans learned its bid for the 2016 college football national title game had lost out to Arizona's bid to host the game near Phoenix. The Sugar Bowl led that bid, with assistance from the GNOSF.
"We look forward to working with the College Football Championship Committee and staff to see how we can improve our bid" for a future game, Cicero said.
In the meantime, the foundation is leading efforts to bring the 2018 Super Bowl to New Orleans in conjunction with the city's 300th anniversary. Cicero also was in Indianapolis this week to work on bids to bring back men's and women's basketball Final Fours sometime between 2017 and 2020.
Since the foundation's inception in 1988, it has led successful bids for three Super Bowls, three men's college basketball Final Fours, three women's Final Fours, three Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournaments, four Bassmaster Classic fishing tournaments and numerous other events.
According to Cicero, those events cost $65 million to bring in and produced a $2 billion economic benefit for the city and state. Then there was the additional value of the national, even global exposure those events can bring, Cicero noted.