High school football 2018: Central versus Thompson

Central football players embrace after defeating Thompson. Central-Phenix City vs. Thompson 7A state championship Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, during Super 7 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

When the AHSAA held its annual Media Day event in Montgomery on Tuesday, Auburn mayor Ron Anders made it a point to be in attendance. Given what the AHSAA will bring to his community again this December, it’s not hard to understand why.

The AHSAA’s Super 7 series — the high school football championship games for the association’s seven classifications — will return to Jordan-Hare Stadium this December after being played there in 2018. The return to Jordan-Hare is a brief break in a partnership with Tuscaloosa and Bryant-Denny Stadium, which will not host this year due to upcoming renovations.

“Ten years ago, we were given an opportunity to partner with the city of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama to host the Super 7. Over a decade and through five rotations in our community, we have seen this as a great privilege and a tremendous responsibility to be a part of something that is something in a young person's life they'll carry with them to the very end,” Anders said. “We're excited this year that the rotation has kind of skipped a beat and we get to do it again. We'll have a great time the first week of December in Auburn.”

‘Roll out the red carpet’

Tuscaloosa’s loss for December will be Auburn and Opelika’s gain, particularly from a financial standpoint.

Robyn Bridges, the vice president of Auburn-Opelika Tourism, estimated that the Super 7 makes about a $2.5 million economic impact on the area with players, coaches and fans staying in hotels, eating at restaurants and shopping at stores that call the community home.

Bridges pointed out that December is the first point in the entire year when things seem to slow down around the area. Thanks to the Super 7, that won’t be the case.

Last December, overall revenues for local hotels were up by 8.3 percent from 2016 — the last time Auburn hosted — totalling out to $622,931 over the Super 7’s three-day period. Tiger Transit services at Auburn University also saw an 11 percent increase during those three days compared to three years ago.

Bridges explained that while Auburn and Opelika might not have been expecting to host the event two years in a row, they jumped at the opportunity when it presented itself.

“It is a fantastic opportunity obviously for us to show off what a great community this is to all these young people, the fans, the participants and the coaches from all over the state of Alabama,” Bridges said. “We roll out the red carpet every time they want to come. If they want to come two years in a row or if they want to come every year, that's what we're here to do. We're very excited to have it back again for the second year in a row.”

Going forward

Since Auburn will host the Super 7 this December, Tuscaloosa will instead host the event in 2020. As of now, the future past next year is to be determined.

The current agreement between the two cities and the AHSAA ends after 2020. Anders, who was one of the founding members of the group that helped form the Super 7 alliance with the AHSAA in 2009, has spoken in favor of re-upping the deal to keep the association’s championship games in Jordan-Hare and Bryant-Denny for the foreseeable future.

“It is my intention to put our best foot forward,” Anders said last December. “It is my intention to keep the event because I believe it is a great event and it’s important to the community.”

If the contract is extended, Tuscaloosa will get the game again in 2021. This will put the two towns back on the regular rotation and, more importantly, ensure the games are not played in the same stadium as the Iron Bowl just one week later.

While a deal is not done yet, Anders remains optimistic that the event won’t be going to a new town anytime soon. The extension coming to fruition will be a welcomed sight for all involved, especially those who call Auburn or Opelika home.

“There's a lot of cities out there who want to compete with us, and they can bring it on. We're going to do what we can to make sure that we keep it here and continue that experience for those boys,” Bridges said. “There's no better place and no better partnership than the two biggest campuses in the state to have this. We make it a very special experience for the boys and everybody who attends, and so does Tuscaloosa. We're committed to keeping it.”

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