MURFREESBORO – Ten years later, it remains all about the facilities.
The TSSAA’s 22nd annual Spring Fling wrapped up Friday night in Murfreesboro at five local athletic venues under clear skies with state champions crowned in baseball, boys soccer, softball, tennis and track and field.
And with that, more than 4,200 athletes and 30,000 spectators headed home — year No. 10 of the Fling in the ’Boro is now over for another year.
“It’s always been about the facilities,” former TSSAA Executive Director Ronnie Carter said.
And Murfreesboro put its best athletic facilities on display this week.
Carter, who oversaw the high school athletic association when its Board of Control awarded the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce the bid and moved it from Memphis, said he’s seen Rutherford County’s venues blossom since it came here.
The Dean A. Hayes Stadium remains the best of the venues, holding five days of track and field events. The venue was at capacity the past two days for both the girls and boys track and field state championships.
“This has been a great thing for Rutherford County to host Spring Fling,” Riverdale track and field coach Rickey Field said. “I hear feedback from the other coaches in the state.
“They love coming to Murfreesboro. It’s very centrally located to all the venues.”
True. The quality of the venues is also a positive.
And it will improve next season with the opening of the new indoor tennis facility, which will feature eight courts that can be used in case of inclement weather, such as the rain that hit the area Thursday.
“We are thrilled to be able to host this year after year,” said Barbara Wolke, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. “TSSAA Spring Fling is one of the reasons why we have officially trademarked Rutherford County as the sports capital of Tennessee.
“The return on investment is immeasurable. The exposure of the university, city, hotels and restaurants — everything we have to offer here.”
Prior to the chamber winning the bid from Memphis, which held it for three years, the largest athletic event held in the city was the annual TSSAA Division I boys and girls state basketball championships that generated $3 million in tourism. Spring Fling brings in $3.4 million annually.
However with the completion of the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex, which houses the state soccer tournament, the chamber has been able to attract national US Youth Soccer events.
“We have the facilities,” Wolke said. “That’s for sure. “We are centrally located.
“But at the end of the week, it’s all about the high school athletes and them getting to compete in these high school championships.”
Contact Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Kreager.