Here’s how the new Baton Rouge hockey team will fit into the city’s tourism strategy

Sporting events are a key piece of Baton Rouge’s tourism strategy. The city recently has hosted volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling tournaments, and a youth soccer tournament planned for June is expected to inject millions into the local economy.

The newly announced, as-yet unnamed Baton Rouge professional hockey team adds credibility to the Capital Region’s pitch as a sports destination, says Jill Kidder, who leads Visit Baton Rouge.

“We love the fact that we’ve got another sporting event in our toolbox,” she says. “It helps us build that brand.”

Kidder plans to encourage package deals that could include hockey tickets and a hotel room, for example.

Casey Tate, assistant executive director with the Downtown Development District, says the team will add to the activity downtown and boost “local tourism” by visitors from Denham Springs or the west side of the river, for example, creating additional business for bars, restaurants and hotels.

A total of about 21,000 people attended the three exhibition games held at the Raising Cane’s River Center to gauge interest in hockey. Wayne Hodes, who manages the River Center, says many came from outside the immediate area.

“The patrons that came to those games came from throughout Louisiana,” he says. “We know people from Monroe came. People from Shreveport came.”

The team will be a member of the Independent Federal Prospects Hockey League and play 28 regular season home games per year. Team owner Barry Soskin has agreed to a three-year lease with the River Center, officials announced last week.

The River Center recently opened a name submission contest for the team that runs now through April 30. Fans are encouraged to send in their ideas here. The team’s name will be announced in late May, according to a statement from the River Center. The winner will receive a pair of season tickets and a custom team jersey.

This story originally appeared in an April 14 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.