“We’re right in the final phases of putting the last pieces together for the game,” said Rome attorney Bob Berry, NAIA Host Committee co-chair. “The feeling is maybe even more excitement than in the past because of the teams we have participating.”
Thursday’s contest at Barron Stadium will be between Morningside College from Sioux City, Iowa, and Marian University from Indianapolis, Ind. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
This will be the fifth time Rome hosts the title game and the first time for either team to compete for the championship trophy.
“Both of them are really good football teams and we should be in for a great game,” Berry said.
Making the trip from the Midwest along with the football teams will be their fans, cheerleaders and, for the first time at a NAIA national championship game in Rome, their schools’ marching bands.
“That tells you how excited they are to be in this game, because that is an expensive prospect for both schools,” Berry said.
With so many people coming from out of town, Rome’s hotels were reporting sold-out nights for this week.
Berry said that with teams arriving Monday and staying through Thursday night, the economic impact should be even greater than in years past.
Both the Holiday Inn Express and Jameson Inn off of U.S. 411 are serving as the host hotels for both teams and said they are booked from Monday through Thursday.
The Days Inn on Turner McCall Boulevard and Hawthorn Suites on Second Avenue both reported no vacancies for Wednesday night and Thursday night.
Ann Hortman with the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau said she expects downtown merchants to once again welcome fans of both schools with open arms.
“We have a renowned reputation for our southern hospitality, and time and time again that’s the one thing that comes back to us,” Hortman said. “Downtown usually does a great job of rolling out the red carpet for our guests.”
Berry said that after planning for the title game five times now it has become a little easier, but the biggest thing they are hoping for is some more fan support from local college football fans.
The move from playing the game on Saturday to Thursday was made in part to make sure there were no conflicts with other events or high school championship football games.
“Thursday will be a night where folks can come and enjoy the game and the atmosphere,” Berry said.
Tickets are available online at www.naianationalchampionship.com and are $25 each.
This year ticket holders will be able to join in some pre-game fun with the FanZONE street party, an event that will provide plenty of entertainment outside the front gates of Barron Stadium beginning Thursday at 4 p.m.
“Ann Hortman has really worked on this,” Berry said. “We expect it to be a much bigger deal than anything like this has been in the past and we’re hoping for a big crowd to come out before the game.”
The FanZONE will feature food, music, corn hole tournaments and a Wii video game competition, along with cheerleaders from both teams pumping up the crowd.
Local musician Scott Thompson and Peachtree Station will perform beginning at 5:30 p.m.