The drive for football fans from Huntingdon, McKenzie, Bruceton and West Carroll will be 53 miles farther to make the state championships as the TSSAA recently opted to move the football championships from Cookeville, where the championships have been held since 2009, to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
There were several reasons for the change, which was voted in by the Board of Control, as Cookeville actually had a higher bid of $253,000 compared to $250,000 from the City of Chattanooga. One of the biggest reason for the change may be the fact that the turf at Tucker Stadium in Cookeville is worn out and is due for resurfacing either this year or next. Both locations offered 105 hotels rooms, so that factor was a wash.
I actually like the change because Finley Stadium is not far off I-24 and US 27 and will be more easily accessed than Tucker Stadium was. Cookeville is located on I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville, but the location of Tucker Stadium is three miles north of I-40. It is hard to get to, and there isn’t an overabundance of parking. Tucker Stadium has a capacity of 16,500 compared to 20,412 for Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, although I don’t think the seating capacity has ever been a problem.
When you look at the ramifications of this move for us Carroll County folks – and, selfishly, that is all I care about because I think Paul Ward Stadium would be a great venue – the extra few miles to drive is worth it for one reaspm. I never like the championships at Cookeville, and I have been twice. The stadium was hard to get to and it was an older stadium. And from a sportswriter point of view, the hospitality wasn’t good at Cookeville because of the small press boxes.
Truthfully, since I am being selfish, I wish someday that the football championships would return to Murfreesboro because that is almost in the center of the state. It’s an equal distance for the folks coming from the outer edges of the state. When Huntingdon played there in 2012, Gordonsville had a 30-minute drive and the Mustangs a two-hour drive, but that will happen no matter where it is held.
Again, I think this is a good change, and my wish is that the Mustangs or any of our county schools get to make the extra 53-mile drive to this new location on the campus of the University of Chattanooga.