Georgia Southern Shootout
What: Lacrosse tournament
Who: More than100 teams from across the U.S.
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: Allen Creek Soccer Complex, 2500 Allen Creek Road, Gainesville
Why: Qualifying tournament for Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions in December at Wesley Chapel, Fla.
More info: www.facebook.com/GeorgiaSouthernShootout
The largest lacrosse tournament in the Southeast is coming to Gainesville.
More than 100 teams from all over the country and an estimated 15,000 people will descend on the Allen Creek Soccer Complex on Saturday and Sunday for the Georgia Southern Shootout, said tournament organizer Tom DeBole.
The tournament creates some exciting economic prospects for Hall County.
“We think it is a big deal,” said Marty Nix, assistant Hall County administrator. “We have 15,000 people coming into our county that will be buying food and gas, staying in our hotels and going to local attractions.
“All of the hotels in the area are full. Visitors are having to go as far as Cornelia and Buford to find open hotel rooms.”
In order to promote the area, visitors will be receiving information bags for the county when they register. Each bag will contain a list of local attractions and maps to get there.
“We try to do everything we can to attract commerce and to showcase our county,” Nix said.
Economic advantages aren’t the only benefits of an event this size, according to Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
“Every time there is an event like this, it brings families in from all over the region. Some may have never experienced Gainesville before and they take that experience home with them.
“Their business is good for our quality of life but it also has the benefit of promoting our community.”
The tournament itself is a qualifying tournament for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions, which takes place in December in Wesley Chapel, Fla. It will have both boys’ and girls’ teams with participants from 10 years old to high school seniors.
Ten lacrosse programs from Georgia, some of which have multiple teams and age groups, will participate.
“Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, so the amount of kids that will be here to attend is off the charts,” said DeBole.
Lacrosse evolved from a Native American game and is considered one of the oldest sports in America. Nationwide, youth participation in lacrosse has grown to nearly 300,000 people, a 138 percent increase since 2001. There are more than 1,200 high school boys’ lacrosse teams in the U.S. and an estimated 228,000 high school players, according to the Georgia chapter of U.S. Lacrosse.
“We really prepare for this event all year,” DeBole said. “As soon as the tournament ends we select a date for the following year.”
He said that the tournament is moving back to Gainesville because of the quality of the Allen Creek Complex’s fields and the support the tournament receives from Hall County Parks and Leisure and its director, Mike Little.
“Not everyone is easy to work with. Mike and his staff really go above and beyond,” he said. “Both of us want participants to return because of the quality of the facilities and the area.”
A tournment this size doesn’t just happen. Local government, businesses and tournament organizers have had to work together to make sure the county is properly prepared.
“We’re really pleased with the number of participants coming from out of state, but it takes a lot of planning to make sure everyone is taken care of,” Nix said.
“Once you get 15,000 people here, how do you keep them safe? How do you feed them? Where are they going to put their waste?
“There has to be security plans, weather contingencies, food and water, garbage pickup and parking. It really takes a good command staff of five or six people to make sure everything is covered.”