The Meridian Star
MERIDIAN – Area hotels are booked up and restaurants are expected to be even more packed than usual this Mother’s Day weekend with visitors from a championship soccer tournament that was unexpectedly relocated to Meridian from storm-ravaged Tupelo.
Some 104 soccer teams with 1,357 players will take the fields at four venues in Meridian from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for the Mississippi Soccer Association’s Kohl’s American Cup.
Division III (Recreation League) State Championship games will be played at Jaycee Soccer Complex; Northeast Soccer Complex; Q.V. Sykes Field and Lamar School.
The players will be accompanied by their families for the tournament to be hosted by the Meridian Youth Soccer Organization.
“We are expecting more than 5,000 people to descend upon Meridian on Mother’s Day,” MYSO Vice President Hampton Thames said at a Tuesday morning press conference.
“We have been in a frenzy trying to accommodate all the hotel rooms from all the families and trying to organize our venues,” Thames said.
Lauderdale County Tourism Director Dede Mogollon said the influx of people will be comparable to the opening weekend of State Games.
“We have been working very diligently to place as many teams as we can in Meridian and in the surrounding area,” Mogollon said. “We know that Philadelphia, Forest, Livingston, Clarko (State Park) and Okatibbee (Lake) are all sold out already.”
“We are getting word out to all of our restaurants so they can be staffed up and prepared for these individuals,” Mogollon added.
Tornado disrupts tourney plans
The Tupelo Youth Soccer Association was originally scheduled to host the tournament but the location had to be moved in the aftermath of an April 28 tornado that ripped through Tupelo, destroying more than 200 homes and 16 businesses.
Louisville also suffered major damage and several people were killed when a tornado touched down there.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Louisville and Tupelo,” Thames said. “The Tupelo Soccer Association worked hard to host this. Our hearts and prayers go out to them. I just want to let you know that we are going to donate a significant percentage of the profits we do at our gates and our concessions to their designated fund.”
Thames was told last week the city had been selected as the new site for the tournament. MYSO hosted the tournament in 2012 and will do so again in 2015.
“I feel one of the reasons why they relocated it here is because they knew we could handle it,” Thames said, adding that as soon as he learned of the tournament’s move to Meridian he contacted Mogollon and officials with the city of Meridian Parks and Recreation Department.
“When he called us we got with the mayor and he gave us three words, ’Make it happen,’” Parks and Recreation Director Kelvin McGruder said.
District 5 Lauderdale County Supervisor Kyle Rutledge has been helping out at the Jaycee Soccer Complex to arrange for parking there, Thames said.
Normally, the hosts have months to plan ahead for the tournament. Organizers here had nine days to prepare.
The influx of visitors is expected to be an economic boon for the area and organizers hope they have a good time while they are here.
“Obviously are hearts are with our friends in Tupelo but we are happy to take care of these individuals coming to town,” Mogollon said. “We look forward to everyone in Meridian welcoming them and making them feel comfortable.”