Hattiesburg, MS., Plays Hardball to Drive Sports Tourism

"Baseburg" World Series campaign highlights Hattiesburg's love for the game.

Hattiesburg, MS., Plays Hardball to Drive Sports Tourism

Amidst a steady stream of top-name brands advertising during the 2023 World Series, Hattiesburg, MS, stepped up the plate. The destination–the third-largest in Mississippi–made the daring move to go national with its “Baseburg'' campaign, banking on its love for the national pastime to lead to future travel business.

“We felt like it was time to go big or go home,” says Visit Hattiesburg CEO Marlo Dorsey. “What better way to introduce ourselves to the world?”

Marlos Dorsey Baseburb

Hattiesburg may not be as well known or visited as other Southeastern U.S. cities, but it’s drawn national recognition before. Home to 47 large-scale murals, it earned a top-10 ranking for best public arts scene from Travel & Leisure. 

Dorsey, Mayor Toby Barker, and Southern Mississippi Baseball Coach Christian Ostrander feel like the Baseburg campaign is a work of art. They say the best part is that the advertisement and hashtag movement properly reflect Hattiesburg.

“Everybody is searching for that authentic experience that helps you be part of something bigger than who you are,” says Dorsey. “We have a collective ambition to really position Hattiesburg as something very special.”

USM Super Regional Baseburb

Talkin’ Baseball

Ostrander, a pitching specialist, has been with Southern Miss for the past seven years and became head coach following the 2023 season. He is one of only five people to hold the school’s top baseball job since 1959. The team has made the NCAA Tournament in each of his seasons at USM and reached the Super Regionals in 2022 after defeating LSU, bringing some of college baseball’s biggest games to Hattiesburg. 

At this point, any USM home game is a major event in the city, he says as evidence why the Baseburg moniker fits like a glove. The city’s amenities are a proven recruiting tool for potential players and tournaments, he says.

“I've been all over recruiting over the years and Hattiesburg is the nicest town in this state,” he says. “You’ve got plenty of hotels, restaurants, and everything to do. I've seen places that don’t have nearly what Hattiesburg has in regards to those things.”


Mayor Barker, who attended Southern Miss, expects to hit a home run with each event.

“The community and culture here is so well-established,” he says. “The campaign spoke to something we knew was there but had not articulated. We are a baseball community.”

There are more than 25 baseball diamonds in the greater Hattiesburg area and the love of the game draws major events to town. 

  • It hosted the Conference USA, NCAA Regional and Super Regional baseball tournaments within a month’s-span in Spring 2022. Crowds of 6,300 filled Pete Taylor Park and the games garnered national interest via ESPN and other national outlets. Visit Hattiesburg values the three weeks of tournaments at $20 million, and the region recorded a 23% increase in revenue from the same period in 2021.
  • In Summer 2023, the region hosted the DYB World Series for the first time since 1998, bringing in 22 teams from across 12 states. The event, which had a $3.4 million economic impact, is scheduled to return in 2025.
  • Also this past summer, the NCAA Super Regionals returned, making the destination one of only two U.S. cities to host the last two years. Including media exposure, the games are valued at a $5 million impact.
  • William Carey University was one of 10 hosts for the NAIA 2023 Baseball Tournament. The school, ranked fourth in the country, hosted four teams for the four-day event. 

Beyond the numbers, the Hattiesburg team sees these events as invaluable in honing the Baseburg moniker, the local leaders say.

Time for a Comeback

The timing for these welcomed events comes as the country moves beyond the worst of the pandemic. As with much of the country, Hattiesburg struggled to attract visitors during the decade’s onset.

Baseburg as a marketing tool was conceived in 2016 and has been embraced ever since, says Dorsey. Now it is integral in a long-term plan to use sports tourism to drive economic growth. In 2022, the city passed a 1% tax on hotel and restaurant sales that it splits with USM. As a result, future events will be even more valuable to the community.

“We’ve got a plan through 2026 on how we're going to strongly position Hattiesburg as a premier sports destination,” says Dorsey.

While baseball will be important, soccer also leaves a strong imprint. The Mayor notes a Labor Day tournament drew 150 teams and a larger economic impact than a college football weekend. Tatum Park is among the largest and most versatile venues in the Southeast–comparable to Foley Sports Complex in Alabama.

That said, Baseburg appears to be a grand slam. It earned honors from both The Mississippi Tourism Association and Recreation and Parks Association, and Dorsey adds there “has been some FOMO from our DMO friends.”

More importantly, Hattiesburg is on deck for new sports tourism business.

“We wanted to make sure that coming out of the pandemic that we were in a very strong recovery position to be able to show who we really are,” she says. “A lot of times you don't know who you really are until you're faced with a lot of adversity. It was the time for us to start sharing Hattiesburg with the rest of the country and also the world.”

Photo Credits: Brad Puckett/Visit Hattiesburg