The NCAA Women’s College Cup, taking place this weekend at Kennesaw State, will be the first NCAA soccer championship held in Georgia since 1968. It is not an aberration.
It might be followed by the third NCAA Division I wrestling championship to take place in the Southeast and a more unlikely NCAA title event, the men’s lacrosse championship.
“To get a [lacrosse] Final Four here would be pretty amazing,” said Ken Chin, Atlanta Sports Council vice president of business development and events.
NCAA championships of various stripe already are headed for metro Atlanta. Gwinnett County landed next year’s NCAA women’s gymnastics championship at Gwinnett Arena. Georgia Tech will host two other title events: the 2013 men’s golf championship at the Capital City Club in Alpharetta and the 2013 men’s basketball Final Four at the Georgia Dome. That follows an NCAA men’s basketball regional set for March at the dome.
The gymnastics and golf events reflect the sports council’s strategy to play a role in bringing lower profile college events to metro Atlanta, in addition to big-ticket events such as the Final Four.
“We want the NCAA to realize we can do so much more with them, given all the other assets we have in the community,” Chin said.
Kennesaw State’s year-old soccer stadium might be the best example. The 8,300-seat facility was built specifically for soccer, though it likely will be the home field for the KSU football team when it begins play, probably in 2014.
When the stadium was under construction, Owls women’s soccer coach Rob King suggested to then-athletic director Dave Waples that the school bid for the Women’s College Cup, the soccer equivalent of the Final Four.
“Nobody could find one good reason not to,” said Scott Whitlock, senior associate athletics director.
About 7,000 visitors, among them the participating Duke, Florida State, Stanford and Wake Forest teams, are expected to come through Cobb County for Friday’s and Sunday’s matches. Tickets are nearly sold out. The Cobb County Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates an economic impact of $2.6 million.
Kennesaw State is pursuing the tournament again for 2013. “We want to be able to showcase our facility, showcase our area, showcase our community,” Whitlock said.
The sports council will have representatives from the ACC at Kennesaw State as part of a pitch to bring that league’s women’s soccer tournament to Kennesaw. The ACC men’s basketball tournament will take place at Philips Arena in March. The council intends to bid for the league’s baseball tournament, which has openings in 2014-15, and bring it to Gwinnett’s Coolray Field.
Sports council executive director Dan Corso and Chin have had similar conversations with SEC officials about attracting various conference tournaments to Atlanta. The football championship will be held Saturday at the dome. The SEC men’s basketball title was played there in March and will return in 2014.
In October, Chin and Corso lobbied the NCAA to bring future lacrosse and wrestling championships to Atlanta. Chin said they received a positive reaction, and not only for the city’s obvious advantages: experience in hosting large sporting events, sufficient hotel rooms and accessibility from across the country.
“They know that, [when] you look at lacrosse and college wrestling, in order to keep those sports growing, they need to look at non-traditional places,” Chin said.
Both sports, typically strongest in the Northeast and Midwest, have experienced growth in Georgia and the Southeast in recent years. Chin said the council anticipates bidding for the NCAA wrestling championship, which is available in 2015, with the dome as the venue. In recent years, the event has been held at basketball arenas in the Midwest and occasionally in the East. It has drawn up to 97,000 for all sessions. The potential to sell more tickets surely appeals to the NCAA.
A lacrosse championship bid might hinge on the possibility of a new open-air football stadium on the Georgia World Congress Center campus. Chin said the sports council is eying the 2018 lacrosse championship, and could pursue an event that in recent years has been held in NFL stadiums in Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia. The three-game attendance record for the championship is 133,801.
Except for a year at Virginia, the event has been staged each year between Maryland and Massachusetts, lacrosse’s hotbed.
“We just think it’d be a great event for the city,” Chin said.
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