For nearly six months, the Baton Rouge River Center was home to the 102nd American Bowling Congress Championships Tournament, a USBC event. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the River Center is home to 5,000 people displaced by the storm.
City officials told the Los Angeles Times that the population of East Baton Rouge Parish, which includes Baton Rouge, has nearly doubled from 425,000 to 850,000 since Katrina ripped through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana two weeks ago. Growth is expected to continue, and much of it could be permanent.
Baton Rouge is now the largest city in the state, and traffic at the Metro Airport is expected to increase from 700,000 passengers last year to nearly 3 million this year, according to reports in the Baton Rouge Advocate. The Pete Maravich Center, normally home to the Louisiana State University basketball program, is now a triage center. All events scheduled for the River Center have been canceled indefinitely.
The 2005 event marked the first time the ABC Tournament was held in Louisiana, and during its 143-day run, more than 66,000 bowlers from a record 13,222 teams made their way to Baton Rouge. Overall, the event attracted more than 130,000 bowlers and guests, and had an estimated economic impact of nearly $74 million.
"It's hard to believe we were just there," Tournament director Brian Lewis said. "Baton Rouge was our home for six months, and so many of the staff and bowlers were able to enjoy the sites and history Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Louisiana is now a part of our tournament's history, and our thoughts go out to everyone affected."
The United States Bowling Congress has joined forces with the Bowling Proprietors Association of America to encourage bowling centers and bowlers to donate to the American Red Cross.
For information about local fundraising efforts in your area, please contact your local association or bowling centers in the area.
By Matt Cannizzaro