New Orleans is often referred to as a “Destination City.” In the world of tourism that’s shorthand for “A place people come to, to enjoy our architecture, food, music, and liberal attitude toward alcohol consumption.” People who organize activities that depend on attracting large crowds – like conventions – capitalize on our reputation as a Destination City. These folks figure if they hold their meeting in New Orleans it will be an incentive for people to show up.
The same is true of sporting events. We’re hosting the Superbowl again in 2025. That will make a total of 11 times New Orleans has hosted the Superbowl, the most of any city in the country, equaled only by Miami. But the Superbowl, the NCAA Final Four, and other what-are-called “Tier 1 sporting events” don’t decide to come to New Orleans just because fans can walk down Bourbon Street with a Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane and do karaoke at The Cat’s Meow.
Well, okay, that’s part of the reason. But the greater parts of these decisions are made in boardrooms for considerations that are complex and financial. The New Orleans representatives in these business meetings are members of an organization called The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
Since its inception in 1988, The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation has been responsible for creating $3.4 Billion worth of economic impact for the city of New Orleans and State of Louisiana. For most of that time, Jay Cicero has been a part of the Foundation. And since 1997 he’s been its President and CEO.
If you live in New Orleans, your own sports activities are a lot more frequent than the Superbowl. They’re also a lot less flamboyant and flashy – though they can still frequently be accompanied by an alcoholic beverage. Take for example putt-putt. Or mini-golf as it is also known. We have two 18-hole mini-golf courses in New Orleans. They’re both in City Park. In an area called City Putt.
City Putt is the most recent attraction to be built in City Park. It opened in 2013 at a cost of $2.7m. And, because of wear-and-tear brought about by putt-putt’s enormous popularity, the courses were totally refurbished in 2017. Today, New Orleanians play over 80,000 rounds of mini-golf a year at City Putt. To put that number in context, it’s double the number of rounds played at courses in other cities of comparable size.
The guiding light of the New Orleans mini golf industry is the Director of Recreational Services at New Orleans City Park, Waymon Morris.
This show was recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in New Orleans. Photos by Jill Lafleur. And check out more lunchtime conversation about New Orleans sports with Ed Lang, CFO of the New Orleans Saints.