NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr announced the contract extension, saying, “You have set a standard in both organization and hospitality, and you have worked hard to make Barron Stadium a venue that will be one of the best for our student athletes and fans for many years to come.
“Rome is known as a remarkable football town,” Carr added, “and what a great way to showcase the top teams in the NAIA on a national stage.”
Local officials celebrated the extension.
“I can tell you, there are a lot of other communities that want this game,” said Host Committee Co-chairman Bob Berry. “No bigger group has been a better partner than the citizens and taxpayers of Rome, because they agreed at the ballot box to tax themselves an extra penny to, among other things, do the improvements you see here today. Because we were able to bring that about, it allowed the NAIA to make this announcement today and we couldn’t be happier for the community.”
Following the inaugural event in Rome in 2008, a game muddied by heavy rains, the NAIA expressed a strong desire to play the game on artificial turf. In November 2009, local voters passed a $42.3 million special purpose, local option sales tax package that included more than $3 million for stadium improvements and AstroTurf.
Harry Brock, chairman of the board of directors of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, said sports tourism is an important piece of the puzzle for economic development in Rome and Floyd County.
“The exposure that this game gives us across the country on television is impossible to measure,” said Brock. “The more exposure that people get to our community, the easier it is for somebody to find us.”
Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lisa Smith said she’s happy for Rome and Floyd County. “The improvements to Barron Stadium are like our own private economic stimulus package,” Smith said. “Our citizens have made an investment in this facility that will reap benefits for years to come.”
The 2009 championship game, won by the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) over Lindenwood University (Mo.), generated approximately $1.9 million for the Rome and Floyd County economy during a time of year when there is typically little else happening on the tourism front. So the five-year extension could mean a $10 million boost to local coffers.
Shorter University Athletic Director Bill Peterson, co-chairman of the Host Committee, said the deal also includes the potential to expand the contract.
“There’s some language in the agreement that says if we’re both happy with what has transpired, that we could renew it for an additional five years,” Peterson said. “I think given the length of contracts that you typically see with the NAIA, I know that this is one of the longest that they’ve ever done.”
This year’s title game kickoff has been scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and the later start time is expected to keep a lot of visitors in town for another night. “We asked the NAIA if there was a possibility that we could move it later in the day,” said Berry. “It would not have been possible in any other year but now that we’ve got the newer lights here, TV can be broadcast at night. Night football has added an air of excitement that you don’t get with a daytime game.”
Berry noted that in the past couple of years, with the game over by mid-afternoon, visitors were ready to get on the road and head home. “We think that this 4:30 start time is going to be very exciting and will add to the crowd,” said Berry. He also hopes more local folks might have finished their Christmas shopping and will be ready by 4:30 p.m. to come to a football game.
Brian Lanham, marketing director for Harvest Moon Café on Broad Street, was particularly excited about the late kickoff and the opportunity for visitors to Rome to hang around an extra night. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in business the whole weekend each of the past two years,” said Lanham.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Berry also touted that Russell Athletic has agreed to stay on as title sponsor through the duration of the contract and that Dr. Pepper Dr. Pepper will also remain a major sponsor through 2015.
Tickets for the 2010 championship game are already available at The Forum box office or online at forumevents.org. Tickets for the title game are $25, but a discounted price of $15 will be offered until Dec. 1.