HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Perhaps it was somehow appropriate the event took place inside the mouth of a soccer goal.
The Huntsville Sports Commission, which has administered the Alabama High School Athletic Association state soccer tournament since 2001, has won the right to host the event through 2016.
Steve Savarese, executive director of the AHSAA, made the announcement jointly with Sports Commission executive director Ralph Stone and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
“The outstanding facility, the volunteers, the community support, the customer service, the fields we play on have been spectacular,” Savarese said. “So we are honored to continue to provide our children the opportunity you have provided.”
There has been an evolution over the past dozen years where host cities must make financial obligations to host an AHSAA event, rather than the other way around.
The Huntsville Sports Commission will pay $20,000 each year to the AHSAA to host the event, with another $40,000-$45,000 in in-kind support in hotels, meals, field maintenance, etc. However, the HSC can sell corporate sponsorships to support the event, beyond the eight exclusive partners with which the AHSAA works.
The Sports Commission also hosts and helps administer the state wrestling tournament each February at the Von Braun Center, with that contract set through 2015. It also hosts ASHAA regional volleyball and softball tournaments.
There was much concern that the 2013 event might be the last in Huntsville, with the contract between the AHSAA and Sports Commission having expired, and Savarese even acknowledged in Huntsville the previous year that a bid process would be held to determine the host. Montgomery was widely acknowledged as Huntsville’s strongest competition. Savarese confirmed that four communities were involved in this year’s bid process.
The first state soccer championships were held in Huntsville in 1991, at Huntsville High and Milton Frank Stadium, but didn’t return until 2001 when the Sports Commission won the bid to host the event. It was one of the first major coups for the Commission, put in place by then-Mayor Loretta Spencer, an organization which now welcomes and/or administers 30-35 events a year, providing a $13-$15 million economic impact.
Savarese noted that seven years ago the first event announcement in which he took part was a soccer contract renewal with Huntsville, which took place in the AHSAA transition period between former director Dan Washburn and Savarese.
Some 96 different teams have participated in the tournament, according to Savarese. The event is for boys and girls teams, with championships for Class 6A, Class 5A and Classes 1A-4A.
The city invested some $750,000 to enhance the John Hunt Park complex before the initial tournament, with fencing, stands, locker rooms, a media center and concession stand. The fields, which consistently draw praise from participants, are maintained by the city’s recreation services and landscape departments.