|Murfreesboro has been host to state high school state championship events such as basketball, volleyball and football for a number of years, but last year the city landed the grand-daddy of them all when the BlueCross Spring Fling came to town.
In 2005 a three-year deal was inked that brought Spring Fling — the annual weeklong sports extravaganza in which more than 4,200 athletes in Division I and II will vie for state titles in baseball, soccer, softball, tennis and track — to Murfreesboro.
"It was outstanding," Ronnie Carter, executive director of TSSAA, said of last year's Spring Fling. "It's been great every year. Last year we had some pretty significant changes. We had more qualifiers (in AAA track). We've got a very nice Monday-Friday track meet."
TSSAA estimates last year's paid attendance was 22,500 people, plus 5,000 coaches, athletes and trainers. If the average fan attended two events it's estimated that Spring Fling drew 11,250 fans plus 5,000 coaches and athletes for 16,250 people.
"It's very good for the community," said Mona Herring, the vice president of Convention and Visitors Bureau for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. "Anytime you bring out-of-town visitors to the community it's a good thing."
Participants spent $2.6 million in Rutherford County during Spring Fling last year. It's estimated that the average visitor spent $25 per day on food and beverages, spent $65.97 for lodging and purchased 15 gallons of gasoline.
Visitors booked 3,989 nights in local hotels during Spring Fling with lodging sales totaling $303,383.
"We want people to leave Murfreesboro feeling good feeling good about the championships," said Wade Hays, chairman of the Rutherford County Sports Council. "We've got to be prepared.
"It benefits the community," he added. "People dine with us, shop with us. They're leaving us tax money. They're boosting our local economy. It helps all of us."
During Spring Fling championships are awarded in five sports, and four of the five sports — softball is the exception — have competition at MTSU.
The five-day track event is held at MTSU, and of the more than 4,200 Spring Fling competitors more than 1,500 are in Murfreesboro for track.
Essentially, MTSU gets a week to showcase its campus to the state for free.
"It's important," MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro said of participating in Spring Fling. "Anytime you can bring athletes to your campus it's big. A high percentage of these athletes will go to college. It's important for the university to host this event. It's a chance to showcase the facilities."
"A lot of students get to see MTSU for the first time," he said. "It's big. It's giving free advertising to MTSU. We certainly hope all state players fall in love with the community."
Murfreesboro needed to upgrade its track and baseball facilities, and it's getting the job done.
The city of Murfreesboro gave MTSU a $5.5 million gift. Of that money $4 million went toward the Middle Tennessee Track and Soccer Stadium that opened May 1, and $1.5 is going toward a new baseball stadium that's slated to open in 2008. Baseball's also gotten $3.5 million in donations for a new stadium.
"That (track) facility is first class," Carter said. "It's an unbelievable track facility. … You kick in baseball next year and you've got something really nice."
The new facilities could be critical to getting TSSAA to re-sign with Murfreesboro when the three-year deal expires in 2008.
"There's no question that track/soccer complex is huge," Carter said. "We made a major decision in Murfreesboro. I told (Herring) we were looking at Nashville (for track), and she said to stay open.
"Our history says if things go well we don't say, 'We're out of here,'" Carter added. "It was great vision on their part."
Quality facilities are just one factor TSSAA considers when it decides where Spring Fling should be. It also considers restaurants, hotels, media coverage, location and business.
"If we're in Memphis, it has financial implications for Bristol," Carter said. "Those are the criteria. The difference now and three years ago is now the (Siegel Soccer Complex) is complete. The track stadium is complete."
Murfreesboro is doing everything to ensure its days of playing host to Spring Fling aren't complete after 2008.