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Monday, Nov. 2, 2020

Bayou Classic


Sporting Event is More Than a Game

Kelly Wells can scratch through one line on his bucket list.

In 2011, when Wells became the first executive director of the Shreveport- Bossier Sports Commission (a position he still holds), there were 10 events he wanted to bring to Shreveport.

The was one of them. “I never thought it would be possible,” Wells said.

But in these times, all things are possible.

The 47th annual college football game between Grambling State University and Southern University is indeed scheduled for Independence Stadium Saturday, April 17, 2021.

It took a pandemic, renovations to the Classic’s home for 29 of the last 30 years – the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – and the work of a lot of people to bring the event north.

“It’s a huge deal,” Wells said. “I think it will be only limited by what (COVID-19) restrictions are placed on it. I think if we’re open at 100%, we will be at capacity at that stadium in April. I think it could be the biggest sporting event we’ve done in the area.”

The Bayou Classic is more than a football game. It’s a Battle of the Bands. It’s fraternities and sororities having parties. It’s alumni renewing old acquaintances. It’s people in the streets strolling from club to club.

But the 2021 Classic may look more like a stream than a bayou. COVID restrictions could limit the game’s crowd size, as well as the size of gatherings at ancillary events.

Right now, Independence Stadium is limited to 25% of its 50,000-seat capacity.

“Based on the 12,500 attendees, I think the economic impact (is expected to be) substantial – around three million dollars for the game on Saturday. You add the Battle of the Bands on Friday night, that gets visitors to come in and stay for a couple of nights, and that doubles the impact. The game and the Battle of the Bands are very similar in attendance.”

Even though the stadium’s capacity and the Battle of the Bands are not guaranteed, fans from both schools are not waiting until the last minute to make plans.

“The city is pretty much sold out at this point, which hasn’t happened in years,” Wells said. “That’s how much interest in this game there’s been. There are no rooms available.”

Remember, the Bayou Classic is traditionally about more than a game.

“A Southern alumni group that gets together every year in New Orleans, and they’ve already rented out half of one of our local hotels and meeting space to host their annual weekend get-together that they normally do at the Bayou Classic.” Wells said. “They’ve blocked off 50 rooms. They kind of make it a minireunion. Rooms are getting booked as far away as Marshall (Texas). This is almost like the Independence Bowl in its heyday.”

Shreveport is not New Orleans. But it does have experience hosting large events like the Independence Bowl, the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. Wells believes that experience will pay off come next spring.

“Shreveport doesn’t get the opportunity very often, like New Orleans, to do these big events. So, when we get something big, our community comes out big time for it. There are many folks that normally wouldn’t have the opportunity or finances to go down and attend it. But now that it’s here, it’s going to really introduce the Bayou Classic to a whole new group of folks who have not attended it in the past.”

To learn more about the Bayou Classic, you may visit www.mybayouclassic.com.


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