Hotels, restaurants prepare for games

By By Erin Hilsabeck / staff writer
June 18, 2004
As thousands of out-of-towners flood into Meridian for the 13th Annual State Games of Mississippi, most need a place to stay and a good meal to eat.
Some also look for places to shop or simply spend time between events.
Meridian businesses are used to the crowds brought in by the Olympics-style State Games. Some say they even anticipate the yearly event as a way to bolster sales and profits.
Joiner, who has been in the hotel business for 30 years, said there will be some vacancies in a few hotels and motels in Meridian this weekend.
Two hotels that are completely booked are the Holiday Inn Express and the Quality Inn, said their sales and marketing director Lisa Lampton.
Many teams and towns who attend the games every year will reserve rooms for next summer before they leave Meridian this year, said David Hamilton, owner of Best Western.
Hamilton and Lampton said most travelers will arrive this afternoon, in time for the 7:30 p.m. opening ceremony at Meridian High School's Ray Stadium.
Local hotels aren't the only businesses prepping for the State Games crowd.
Restaurant employees also have been preparing for weeks for visitors who might be looking for a post-game meal.
Schawana Law, manager of McAlisters Gourmet Deli, is planning on a bigger crowd because of the restaurant's proximity to State Games events.
At least 7,000 athletes and spectators are expected to attend this year's games, said April Luke, director of the State Games.
She said Mississippi State University has conducted two economic impact studies on the games.
In 1998, during the one-weekend event, people spent $3.8 million dollars at Meridian businesses.
In 2002, over two weekends, the games brought in $5.5 million, Luke said.
Mississippi State will do another study in 2006, and Luke said she hopes she'll see another increase and further impact.
Joiner said he would be disappointed if the games ever moved away from Meridian.

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