by Angie Kay Dilmore
As a child, Tom Hoefer loved sports, though he realized early on he was better at listening or watching sports than playing them. If there was a sporting event taking place, he and his brother were either watching it on TV or listening to the play-by-plays on the radio. Football, baseball, and hockey were their favorites. Hoefer (pronounced HAY-fer) idolized radio sports announcers and dreamed of becoming a radio sports broadcaster himself one day. It doesn’t happen often in life, but Hoefer made his childhood dream come true.
His first foray into the field of sports announcing came in his senior year of high school. He covered a girls’ basketball game for his classmates. Hoefer also worked at a radio station during high school in his hometown of Salem, Illinois. He says he did a little bit of everything at the station, from news and disc jockey to sports and production, gaining valuable experience that set the stage for a lifelong career. Hoefer attended Eastern Illinois University and graduated in 1985 with a degree in journalism. After briefly returning to Salem’s radio station, he moved to Selma, Alabama, where he served in a variety of roles at a station there.
Hoefer moved to Lake Charles in 1988 and worked at radio station LA99. There, he met Kaye Billeaudeaux, whom he married in 1992. He advanced his career at LA99, becoming program director and later sales manager. But in 1997, an opportunity arose that he couldn’t pass up. The Ice Pirates! Lake Charles’ very own indoor hockey team moved into the Civic Center and needed a radio announcer. Hoefer says he begged Thom Hager to let him do it, and it was great fun while it lasted. The franchise folded after four years on the ice.
In 2000, Hoefer was hired by KPLC, but something more life changing also happened that year. After a decade or more of bidding, LA99 finally won the contract to broadcast McNeese’s athletic games. And Hoefer was their man to do it. Hoefer is now in his 23rd year of announcing play-by-plays for McNeese games. He is currently under contract with McNeese and covers football on 92.9 The Lake.
Hoefer does have a day job, as well. He’s been with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for 17 years and is currently their Director of Communications & Media. Thrive magazine recently spoke with Tom, and he shared his passion for sports, his enthusiasm for serving his community, and his pro tips on being a transplant in Southwest Louisiana.
I was a sports fan from a very young age. I had some favorite announcers I’d listen to – Jack Buck with the St. Louis Cardinals; Dan Kelly announced the hockey games for the St. Louis Blues. Bob Costas got his start with the Spirit of St. Louis basketball team. As a young person dreaming of becoming a radio guy, I patterned myself after these announcers. It was always radio – I was never interested in television, only radio.
George Swift, president/CEO at the Chamber SWLA, was the man who brought me to Louisiana. When I was working at the station in Selma, George stopped by to visit one day. He had been the general manager at that station prior to moving to Lake Charles. He eventually hired me to move to Lake Charles and work for him at LA99. He wanted me to get the McNeese games broadcast on that station. It took a while, but it happened. George is a good friend and mentor and I owe him a lot.
As many of you know, the Cowboy Stadium press box was destroyed in Hurricane Laura. We’ve been temporarily broadcasting play-by-plays from the Cowboy Room at the south end of the field. It is definitely more difficult to do my job when I’m looking from the end zone instead of the side. But the new press box won’t be completed until sometime in 2023. I’m excited that my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, plays McNeese at MSU this year. Of course, I’m rooting for the Pokes! And McNeese plays EIU at EIU in 2023. Can’t wait to go!
I joined the staff at the Police Jury in 2005, right before Hurricane Rita. My first job there was to manage C-GOV, their government tv channel. Years later, they added public relations to the position. The most rewarding times tend to also be the most difficult times. I helped with public information after Rita and of course the hurricanes in 2020. When people are desperate for information, they want to know what’s happening in their town, when will the power be restored . . . that is when I feel the most useful. It’s sweaty, and stressful, and difficult to be here, but those are the times I feel I have made a difference for people.
I collect old beer cans from the 1930s through 1960s. And I run. I used to run marathons – I ran 12 marathons between 2008 and 2014. Then I ran out of cartilage, which apparently you need! I still run 15-20 miles a week, just to keep in shape and stay sane. It’s cheaper than Prozac.
Learn how to pronounce boudin. Once you have boudin down, all the other Cajun words will be a lot easier. Enjoy and appreciate the local culture. It is unique and you won’t find it anywhere else. And . . . evacuate for hurricanes.
by Katelynn Mouton
Looking forward to watching your favorite teams on the gridiron this fall, but don’t want the hassle of cooking and cleaning up after the game? These six local eateries will help you get a jump-start on making your game day plans for the season.
Located inside L’auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, Barstool Sportsbook, formerly known as Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill, offers a sports betting experience to cover virtually every game around and if game day bets aren’t your thing, they offer a menu to appeal to every taste. From nachos, burgers, salads and wings to beer, wine, specialty cocktails and more, this game day experience is one for the books.
If a nightlife-style game day experience is more your scene, Blue Martini at Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino also provides a sports betting experience along with a special sports book menu. Check out their chicken nacho bites or a serving of chicken wings while you sip on an MVP cocktail during the game.
Buffalo Wild Wings has been a go-to location for game day experiences, no matter the sport, for many years. In November of 2021, this team moved to their brand-new, larger location on L’Auberge Boulevard. Multiple big screen televisions in a variety of dining room experiences means diners are sure to find a great spot to sit, relax and enjoy the game. Wings, of course, are the name of the game here, but appetizers, hot dogs and burgers grace the menu as well. Order a wing bundle or two, or a party platter for you and your friends. Save room for a drink and dessert. Kids’ menu items, salads and wraps are also available.
Any list of local places to catch a game would be incomplete without this long-time community staple. From the Darrell’s Special with jalapeno mayonnaise to the BBQ, Surf ‘n Turf and more, there are plenty of mouth-watering sandwiches to keep you coming back weekend after weekend. Just make sure to grab a stack of napkins to soak up all the extra sauce as you sink your teeth into Darrell’s famous buttery French bread. Sip on an ice cold drink and cheer your favorite team on to victory at their College Street location in Lake Charles. They are closed on Sundays so this is definitely the place to be for College Game Day on Saturdays.
Call 337-474-3651 for hours, specials and more.
A relative newcomer to the area, Fat Pat’s opened their Lake Charles restaurant in December 2021 on Dillard Loop in the Power Centre. This Lafayette-based full-service restaurant and sports bar offers an expansive climate-controlled green area and more than 40 televisions. In addition to the hot and fresh food, including seafood, wraps, po’boys and burgers, there are also activities and games to keep the whole family entertained. Fat Pat’s features two-for-one specials on draft beer, margaritas, wine and mimosas daily.
Walk-On’s provides a game viewing experience with a side of tasty dishes. Located on Common Street in South Lake Charles, the Baton Rouge-based franchise describes itself as a game day experience with a taste of Louisiana. From gathering with family to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, to meeting up with friends to catch the game on one of their many big screen televisions, patrons of the restaurant can expect a menu that offers a wide variety of options. Specials are available throughout the year, including Sunday Funday Specials that serve up $3 Bloody Mary’s and $10 Mimosa Pitchers.