Shreveport-Bossier unveils logistics of National Hot Air Balloon Championships
The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission will host the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships in July. Organizers held a news conference Thursday at LSU Shreveport where both the Red River Balloon Rally and the national championships will be held.
Six months ago, the Balloon Federation of America awarded Shreveport-Bossier a three-year contract to host nationals.
Since then, the sports commission has lined up sponsors and sought advice from Longview. It has hosted the U.S. championships for the past four years. Balloon pilot veteran Bill Bussey of Longview founded the Great Texas Balloon Race 39 years ago.
“To me, this place has more potential than you could ever imagine. As a competition pilot and race organizer – I do both -- I just see great things for this event,” Bussey said, adding Shreveporters will see many balloons overhead this spring as pilots come in to get a feel for the area.
More than 20,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the balloon races. The U.S. championships will attract the country’s top 50 pilots for a six-day race. Kelly Wells, vice president of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, says ballooning is being revived in Shreveport.
“It was something that the community really embraced in the ‘90s. When we found out about the opportunity to host not only a balloon rally but host the ‘Super Bowl’ of hot air ballooning, we jumped on it,” Wells said. “With the championships being in Longview, a lot of the folks in Longview were coming over to the Shreveport-Bossier area anyway to eat, shop and do a little gaming.”
Wells anticipates several hundred volunteers will be needed to put on the events, alongside a paid staff. Bussey says the city must raise about $500,000 and secure many sponsors.
The economic impact of the U.S. nationals in Longview was estimated to be $8 million in 2011. The balloon events in Shreveport will run July 14 -21 on the LSUS campus.