Noteworthy athletic events this year:
April 5: Lookouts opening day, www.lookouts.com
May 5: Chattanooga FC home opener, chattanoogafc.com
Sept. 1: UT football opener (at the Georgia Dome), www.utsports.com
Sept. 13: UTC home football opener, www.gomocs.com
Oct. 5-14: River Rocks festival, www.riverrockschattanooga.com
Nov. 3-4: Head of the Hooch rowing event, www.headofthehooch.org
The annual sports calendar in the greater Chattanooga area is as ever-changing as the weather.
The sports scene continues to move toward an even balance of spectator-oriented events and participatory activities.
Chattanooga's Nationwide Tour golf event -- the Children's Hospital Classic -- will take 2012 off and try to return in May 2013. The Tennessee boys' golf amateur championship will be held at Black Creek Club on July 10-12 and the state four-ball championships will be July 26-29 at Cleveland Country Club.
The Chattanooga Lookouts are a Class AA professional baseball team with a stadium that overlooks the downtown waterfront area.
The NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game was a longtime fixture at Finley Stadium before heading to Texas two years ago.
However, there still are numerous activities at Finley each year, highlighted by the area's high-level men's soccer team. The Chattanooga Football Club will kick off its fourth season against the Knoxville Force at Finley Stadium on May 5. Unlike past seasons when CFC hosted games against international teams, the club's 2012 schedule includes only National Premier Soccer League opponents.
In the NPSL's Southeast Division, which has been split into East and West sections, there are two new teams this season: Myrtle Beach FC and the Mississippi Storm. Chattanooga FC's five-game home schedule includes matchups against Knoxville, the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves, Myrtle Beach and Mississippi. Chattanooga FC missed the NPSL postseason in 2011 after reaching the championship game in 2010.
There also remains a strong NCAA presence in town with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which fields 13 athletic programs in the Southern Conference. Plus, Chattanooga is within a three-hour drive of five SEC schools as well as Georgia Tech and MTSU.
The largest single college event in town in terms of number of participants and fans is the annual Head of the Hooch rowing races on the Tennessee River. The course travels the part of the river that cuts through the heart of downtown, and each year thousands of college, high school and adult club athletes enter.
A relatively new event that also uses our area's natural gifts is the River Rocks festival, which will be Oct. 5-14. It's one of the signature events that tries to group an array of outdoor activities for everyone from beginners to experts. There are too many outdoor endeavors to name, but www.outdoorchattanooga.com has a comprehensive look at the 2012 schedule.