There hasn't been much to look forward to this year in the world of sports tourism, but news that Chattanooga will host six NCAA championships for soccer, softball and tennis from 2023 to 2026 has cheered Tim Morgan up considerably.
"You have months of cancellations, and now you have a glimmer of hope that we can actually bring some events back, and add some new ones we've never hosted," said Morgan, the chief sports officer at the Chattanooga Tourism Company.
Chattanooga submitted 11 bids and scored six NCAA championship events, targeting sports where there are strong community partnerships and great local venues, Morgan said. This was the first time Chattanooga had submitted multiple bids for these championships, and this will be the first time the city has hosted most of these events, he said.
"The only one of these we have hosted before is the Division III men's and women's tennis championships," he said. "We were slated to host the 2020 Division II softball championship, but COVID did a phenomenal job ending that."
In 2020, the pandemic cost the community 66 sporting events across multiple categories, with a potential economic impact of $77 million, according to data from the Chattanooga Tourism Company. The NCAA events in 2023-2026 will deliver $6.7 million in impact over those four years, including $1.2 million each year for three years of Division II softball championships.
NCAA Championships to be held in Chattanooga
DII Softball Championships
May 2023, May 2025, May 2026
Location: Frost Stadium
Host Partner School: Lee University & University of North Georgia
DII M/W Soccer Championships
December 2023, December 2024
Location: CHI Memorial Stadium
Host Partner School: Lee University
DIII M/W Tennis Championships
Location: Champions Tennis Club
Host Partner School: University of the South (Sewanee)
Chattanooga Sports, a division of the Chattanooga Tourism Company, is partnering with the University of the South, Lee University, the University of North Georgia, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga Red Wolves SC and the cities of East Ridge and Chattanooga to host the events.
The Division II soccer championship will be at the new CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge, where Chattanooga Red Wolves SC plays its matches.
"CHI Memorial Stadium is a place where our community can enjoy all levels of soccer, and hosting a NCAA championship is a great opportunity for our region," said Sean McDaniel, general manager of Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, in a written statement. "We're excited to host the Division II men's and women's championships in Tennessee's first soccer-specific stadium."
Anticipating several years of championships is fun, and it's also a great way to build the community's strengths in going after these games, Morgan said.
"As we strengthen our hosting of these events as a community we're positioning ourselves for the bid cycles down the road," he said.
And it's about more than just attracting fans from out of town, Morgan added.
"We are bringing collegiate national championships to our residents to give them an opportunity to see you don't have to travel out to see collegiate national championships now," he said. "They can be part of that experience locally."
Contact Mary Fortune at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @maryfortune.