Picayune welcomes Firecracker Classic competitors
Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 7, 2014
Picayune has hit a home run by hosting the city’s first Gulf South United States Specialty Sports Association Firecracker Classic National Invitational Tournament, which will be held this weekend at Friendship Park.
Gulf South USSSA Director Billy Vaughn said the tournament will host between 80 and 100 teams at the park, beginning at 8 a.m., on Saturday and ending at 10 p.m., on Sunday night.
Vaughn said the tournament was previously held in Slidell for many years, but Gulf South is moving a large part of it to Picayune.
The move is due in part to the hard work of Picayune Director of Parks Heath Stevens.
“I’ve run smaller tournaments in Picayune in the past and we have occasionally used the city for men’s tournaments as well,” Vaughn said. “But Heath called me and invited me to bring on the bigger tournaments and it was the thing to do.”
The 90 teams consist of 12 players and three coaches. They also bring family members with them for the two-day event.
Currently, hotels are booked for weekend and the event is expected to have a major economic impact on our city.
Stevens and Vaughn estimate 3,000-5,000 people will be in town for tournament related activities.
On Friday, local IHOP General Manager Timothy Williams said that he is more than ready for the players and their families.
“We have ordered more food and have extra staff coming in tonight to prep for breakfast tomorrow,” Williams said. “We want people to know that we are open around the clock and are ready for them whenever they are ready for us. There will not be long waits for food because we are prepared and staffed to accommodate them.”
“It is a win-win for both the ballpark and the hotel and restaurant association,” Stevens said. “The one cent sales tax supports us and we are helping the local retail businesses.”
Picayune City Manager Jim Luke said the reason that he hired Stevens was because he knew Stevens would network and promote the park as one of the top sports facilities in the state. Luke said Stevens is doing an outstanding job.
“Filling up the park means filled hotels, gas stations, restaurants and is bringing people from out of the state that might not have necessarily visited Picayune,” Luke said. “It gives us a chance to shine and puts us on the map with a known identity in the sports world. We look forward to these folks coming and enjoying our hospitality.”