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I love the efforts from the people in our town to lift the state football championship games from Cookeville, Tennessee.

The aggressive and savvy folks at Chattanooga Sports, a division of Chattanooga Tourism Co., have joined a slew of area business cohorts and are bidding on the rights to host the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl, the nine annual state high school title games. If successful, the estimates are around $3 million in economic impact.

But, while Chattanooga has a bevy of high school championship events, we have not hosted the state football championships since the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association grouped all the games at one locale. Still, this is more than experience and more than the money.

This should be about the kids as well as the cash. Make it about the experience as much as the exchange.

Having been to Tucker Stadium, the current site of the state title games on the Tennessee Tech campus, well, there simply is no comparison between that facility and Finley Stadium.

I hope the Blue Cross Bowl comes to town. Whatever is lost in what is a central location would be made up with the grace and ambiance of our glorious town in the Southeast corner of the state. No offense Cookeville, but by comparison, we're more Gourmet Chef-ville.

The number of hotel rooms, the amenities downtown and in the other parts of our city, the attractions, you name it and we are blessed to be able to check every box — except a central location in a state that stretches 440 miles.

And location matters, especially to those coming from West Tennessee, and always has to the TSSAA, which has moved multiple state championship events to Murfreesboro through the years to be close to the middle of our state.

But the drive from Memphis to Cookeville is still a haul, measuring in at four hours and 23 minutes, according to Google maps. The drive from Memphis to Chattanooga, if you were wondering, is 36 minutes longer.

Still, perspective and place must have a seat at this conversation. Playing for a state high school football championship is the stuff of lifelong memories and the realization of decadelong dreams for these athletes.

The TSSAA needs to make a statement that this game matters as much to the folks who run the game as it does to the athletes who have worked so hard to get to the game.

In fact, I know Chattanooga would be more than happy to host this event next year and in 2022, which is the length of the bid, but after that, the TSSAA should look even bigger than our 'burg.

In Alabama, the state championships alternate between Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn and Bryant-Denny in Tuscaloosa. For many years, the Georgia Dome was the home for the title games in the Peach State.

After two years in Chattanooga — again, stay as long as you want, considering the estimates of a $3 million annual economic impact would be more than welcomed — find a way to get a rotation between Nissan Stadium in Nashville where the Titans play or in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

Every high school football player dreams of playing in the state title game, and a small fraction of them do.

The TSSAA should do everything possible to make the venue as special and memorable as the pursuit of and playing for that dream.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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