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KTSC ponders ‘Spring Fling’ bid

Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation may pursue a venture new to Knox County: securing a major high school state tournament sports gathering.

At stake would be a bid to secure Spring Fling for Knox County, Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s state tournament of spring sports — baseball, softball, track and field, boys soccer and tennis — beginning in 2010.

Kim Paul, senior vice president for sales and marketing at KTSC, said if The University of Tennessee was on board, which Paul assured was a must, “We’ve got more than enough facilities.

“I think the biggest thing you have to remember on an event like this ... there’s quite a financial commitment on behalf of the hosting city,” Paul said. “There’s a lot of different ways that you can kinda acquire that money: you can secure some sponsors ... or the city itself can try to come up with the commitment.”

The first step, Paul said, took place last week in phone conversations with TSSAA officials. So far, so good.

“They are interested in Knoxville putting in a bid, and we are somewhat interested in putting in a bid based on some of the tentative information they gave us,” Paul said.

Specifically of interest is a breakdown of anticipated expenses the host city would absorb and personnel and facilities needed. KTSC would access the information before committing to a bid.

“It’s pretty obvious whether it’s good or bad,” Paul said.

Paul said KTSC’s job is to “put the package together” by “bringing the players together,” including UT, Knox County and City of Knoxville officials, the high schools, Knoxville Convention Center and U.S. Cellular complex.

Specifically referencing area high school athletics directors, Paul said, “We’re in the process of contacting them. Once we hear back from them and get some of the paperwork TSSAA is going to send us in the mail, we will probably be looking at working something up.”

But Paul said she and Meg Caldwell, KTSC sports sales manager, would make the final decision as to whether Knoxville could muster a decent proposal for bidding on Spring Fling.

According to Matthew Gillespie, TSSAA assistant to executive director, that body’s Board of Controls will decide a new site for Spring Fling 2010 and beyond next June.

This bid would not be a first-time KTSC attempt at securing Spring Fling for Knoxville.

Paul said that in 2004 Knoxville joined alongside Nashville and Memphis “and even Chattanooga, I think,” in an attempt to host Spring Fling on a “three-year rotation” for each site starting in 2006.

“But back in ’04, the [TSSAA] Board decided they wanted to keep the event in the middle of the state rather than rotation,” Paul added about placing Spring Fling in Murfreesboro for a then three-year contract.

Because TSSAA school reclassification begins next school year, 2009-10, TSSAA Board extended Murfreesboro’s contract one year wanting to coincide a possible new site with new classifications.

In terms of either setting up a rotational agreement with other sites, or just bidding on Spring Fling independently, Paul said Knoxville could go either way based on how the figures add up.

“Last I heard, Memphis may not want to host it [again],” Paul added. “They had some financial issues [hosting from 2003 through 2005]. ... They obviously did something wrong.”

Eric Turner, Bearden High School girls and boys soccer head coach since the late 1990s whose boys teams have won three Spring Fling state titles, said Knoxville as host “would be awesome, you get a bigger home crowd, get to play in front of more kids.

“And it would save a little bit of expenses for Knoxville teams, for sure,” Turner added.

Chelsea Jacobs, Farragut High School track and field and cross country head coach, said hosting Spring Fling “would be great for the city … and I think it would be a really good opportunity for the local athletes to be able to showcase their ability in front of their home crowd.”

Paul, who has been at KTSC for five years while serving in her current capacity just more than one year, said “there used to be a much greater pressure during Spring Fling on the host city to kinda do everything, meaning from volunteers to setting up bleachers ... I don’t think that component exists anymore. ... They [TSSAA] definitely take over the management side.”

Paul said Knoxville’s past experience hosting big sporting events, most namely the 2007 National AAU Junior Olympic Games, is a huge plus.

“We had 20,000 athletes,” she said. “That hit every single sport. … Spring Fling would bring about 5,000.”


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