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VOL. 37 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 01, 2013

High school tourneys provide $3M boost to Rutherford County

By Tom Wood

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While the SEC and Ohio Valley Conference tournaments are playing in Nashville through March 17, the TSSAA BlueCross Basketball Championships will take place at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, bringing an estimated $3 million to Rutherford County coffers.

The girls state tournament runs Wednesday through Saturday at the same time the OVC men’s and women’s tournaments play at Municipal Auditorium.

The boys state tournament will be held March 13-16 opposite the sold-out SEC men’s tournament at Bridgestone Arena.

Matthew Gillespie, the TSSAA’s executive assistant director, says the high school championships attract different crowds, leaving room for everyone on the crowded sports landscape.

“Usually, we’re up against the NCAA first-round tournament games, but this year those fall the week after,” Gillespie says. “Most fans that are coming to watch high school sports have a connection to the communities or the schools or the teams, and they are coming to our event.

“A lot of it depends on who is playing. We don’t get the same walk-up crowd those events draw.”

Wendy Bryant, the director of communications for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, says the two-week BlueCross Basketball Championships have steadily drawn about 60,000 fans annually with an economic impact of $3 million.

“That’s been the average the past few years, and hopefully it will meet or exceed our expectations this year,” she says. “The hotels are full, the restaurants are busy and there’s a lot of traffic, but it’s worth it.”

Both Bryant and MTSU associate athletic director Diane Turnham say the impact on the university isn’t as much about economics as it is intangibles.

“The greatest impact for us is that prospective students, not just student-athletes, and their parents are on our campus, where they will hopefully learn a little more about MTSU and want to come here when they complete their high school education,” Turnham says.