June 22, 2021–3:20 p.m.
2021 National Youth Outdoor Championships is coming to town and bringing with it 1500 athletes and their families. Rome City Schools administrators and coaches would like our community to be prepared for the additional people who will be eating in our restaurants, traveling our roads, and staying in our hotels. According to head track and field and cross-country coach, Nick Bridges, this event could be the beginning of more events like this, and an annual addition of revenue in the pockets of local businesses.
USATF is the national governing body for track and field, cross country running, road running, and racewalking. Bridges has been in contact with the leadership of this organization since the regional meet was held at Barron Stadium in 2018. Hosting South Carolina, Georgia and Florida generated $986,554 that was a welcomed addition to Rome’s yearly revenue. “That was just the impact of a three-day meet where we hosted three states,” Bridges said. “This meet will be the weekend after Father’s Day and will last for four days. I am hoping we can drive that number higher. We now have more restaurants and more hotels, and I think we are better prepared for large events coming to our city.”
Bridges wants Rome and Floyd County to know that the expected turnout for this event will influence the day-to-day routines of locals. With the increased numbers of people (4000-6000 per day expected), there will be longer wait times and the traffic will be heavier on local roads. Currently, there are little to no options available for lodging as far south as north Atlanta and as far north as Chattanooga. So, Rome and Floyd County will not be the only areas affected, and with proper preparation, Bridges said that USATF has more in the pipeline that they would like for Rome to host at Barron Stadium.
From Cali to the Carolinas, athletes and their families will meet at Barron where students ages 5-18 will compete for national titles. “I would be willing to bet that folks from other areas will be itching to get out and see the smiles that were hidden behind masks for so long. They also want to see what our area has to offer. So, this is a huge event for not only our school system but for our entire community. I want us to be prepared. What would normally be a slow Thursday night, will be much busier. So, if I owned a restaurant, I would talk with my distributors and let them know that I may need extra food during that week.
“Charles Muhammad, President and Chairperson for the USATF Georgia, and I built a great relationship during the regional meet we hosted at Barron in 2018,” Bridges continued.“He and I are like-minded, and we have been in talks about hosting this event and more like it since we met. He is an extremely hard worker, and he is making waves in our state by helping to bring in the first-ever national track and field event to the State of Georgia.”
In addition to the coming national event, Bridges is hopeful that the meet can be held here in Rome, Ga. annually. Also, Bridges said that there are discussions of a national cross country meet to the Northwest Georgia area. “Charles was so impressed with our volunteer turnout and the way our community welcomed his organization with open arms,” said Bridges said. “That really goes a long way when attracting these types of events to our hometown.”
Superintendent Louis Byars said that this event falls right in line with the school system’s goal of being great community partners. “We took over operations of Barron Stadium in 2015 and it has been a benefit to not only Rome City Schools but also to our community. We have been able to host more events there. Our goal has been to not only use the space for sporting events like the USATF event coming in a week, but we also host our annual Peach State band competition, Rome High School’s graduation, and other events that bring more people to our downtown area. Many people do not know this, but we also support a program for our special education students where they work to maintain the stadium and gain valuable workplace skills they can use when they graduate. They stock the concessions stands and clean the stadium after events. This was especially important during the pandemic because there were not as many local businesses willing to let our students work alongside them and gain these valuable skills. We were glad we were able to still provide these opportunities to our students.”
Byars said that other school programs, like the RHS soccer teams and AFJROTC, also work to maintain Barron Stadium, a job that was once handled by the local recreation department. Because of their attention to the upkeep of the facilities, the stadium is now clean on Saturday morning so that the local community can be sure the stands are free of trash before the next week begins.
“With our growing student body, it is also important that we have a space large enough to host events like graduation. Before,” Byars said, “we would host graduation at the Forum, and he had to limit the visitors because of limited seating. Now, we can allow all family members of our graduates to come out and celebrate this milestone with our students. And we are still in talks with Corky Kell’s leadership to hopefully bring them back to our city.”
Byars also said that without the support of our local government, these events would be far more difficult to organize. He is grateful for the partnership the system shares with the City of Rome, the governing body that owns Barron Stadium. This partnership between RCS and Rome City is what paved the way for the increased events at Barron Stadium, and the increased ring of cash registers locally.
“Our Rome City government officials help us tremendously when we host large events like the USATF National Track and Field Championship. Nick Bridges has also worked with our local tourism office to make sure we are prepared for events of this size. We are thankful for their support, and we hope to provide more opportunities for our community to thrive by attracting more things like this at Barron. Being a good community partner means working with local officials to make sure everyone in Rome and Floyd County benefits from our efforts..
For more information about volunteering for the USATF National Track and Field Championships, a link will be provided on the Rome City Schools Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also visit usatf.org for details.