Monday, February 28, 2011

28 FEB 11: And This One Is Gone

Sunday was another gorgeous day in Columbus! The high temperature was 77 degrees F., perfect weather for.... uhhhh.... for playing three hockey games indoors. It's simply too hot out there, and you could get sweaty.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The Director of the Columbus Sports Council admitted to your blog Sunday four consecutive years of bad weather cost South Commons the Leadoff Classic softball tournament. The event is moving to Florida next year, after spending this year on "hiatus." Shouldn't a college sports event really have a sabbatical?

While Columbus news reporters weren't looking, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association decided to move its Leadoff Classic out of town. A three-year agreement with Clearwater, Florida was announced in mid-November. But local officials apparently kept it quiet - as if Zeph Baker would have displayed home run prowess to win the mayoral runoff.

My first thought over the weekend when I discovered the Leadoff Classic was gone was "Rec-Gate." But Herbert Greene with the Columbus Sports Council told me the Parks and Recreation scandal was NOT a factor. A seven-year contract ran out, and the last four years were filled with bad weather. I knew South Commons stadiums needed retractable roofs.

Herbert Greene admitted the 24 softball teams attending the Leadoff Classic brought a lot of money to Columbus. But he says the National Fastpitch Coaches Association is working on bringing another tournament to South Commons in the next couple of years. Maybe it will happen after tornado season, and be called the "Cleanup Classic."

Herbert Greene tried to put the best picture on things - saying the South Commons softball fields are being upgraded for the first time since 1996. It will be ready for events such as the "Black Softball Conference" around Labor Day, with 205 teams. And imagine if they all bring drum lines to march on the fields between innings....

The loss of the Leadoff Classic may be considered by some a death blow to the dream of Columbus being a softball capital. But Herbert Greene says college softball is still a prize worth pursuing, because of all the money teams bring to the city. And they aren't even the ones playing in Golden Park.

Herbert Greene added Golden Park will host not one, but four major baseball tournaments in the months ahead. One will be a national championship of "club sports." If the Columbus Woodbats decide sometime this spring to play in that division, they could be a strong favorite - as the Bud Light billboard is still there waiting for them.

Speaking of club sports, that brings us to the event Herbert Greene hosted over the weekend. He hopes to have attendance numbers today from the Southeastern Conference hockey tournament, which Arkansas won Sunday with a 5-2 felling of Florida. Razorback fans probably celebrated by shouting, "Woooo! Puck! Sooey!"

(The host college of Auburn wound up sixth in the tournament. The Tigers lost a Sunday morning consolation game to Mississippi 14-6 - as if half the team wanted to be at a church service instead.)

But the S.E.C. hockey tournament had challenges of its own. Herbert Greene admitted to me the new ice rink next to the Columbus Civic Center missed the deadline of being ready for this past weekend. In fact, it won't be finished for six more weeks. If they try to claim cold weather delayed construction of a hockey rink....

As a result, Herbert Greene says first-round games in the S.E.C. hockey tournament had to be moved to metro Atlanta and Birmingham. They couldn't even be played in Columbus, because the building was booked Friday night for a country music concert. You'd think Carrie Underwood's wedding to a major league hockey player could have helped work things out....

But Herbert Greene says the S.E.C. hockey commissioner seems pleased with how the weekend in Columbus went. Greene told me the commissioner plans to recommend the tournament return to Columbus for at least two more years. So the event will have a chance to build a local following - if Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift kindly will cooperate.

Let's quickly skate through other weekend headlines....

+ The third annual bed race to benefit Valley Interfaith Promise attracted at least 600 people downtown. VIP's Victor Feliciano tells me Hinson Galleries had the fastest bed, perhaps because the business recruited Brookstone High School football players for its team. Next year, they may be replaced by former JD Kinder's and Georgia Freight employees.

+ Ground was broken for the new Carver High School. WTVM reported it will be a "green" school. I think that means it's energy efficient -- because I can't imagine Carver graduates would accept a swap of team colors with Spencer.

+ The ribbon was cut to officially open the Russell County Sheriff's Department precinct in Hurtsboro. Sheriff Heath Taylor says he's looking for reserve deputies to serve across the county - and I somehow have the suspicion ex-Constable Robert Schweiger is applying to be one of them. The fact that he's not too reserved in his opinions could hurt him, but....

+ Instant Message to Anne Hathaway: Loved you (for the most part). Couldn't stand him. Did someone order you to co-host the Oscars with a robot?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.17 per gallon at Fuel Tech, Fifth and Veterans Parkway.... FREE short stack of pancakes (sort of) with a donation to Children's Miracle Network Tuesday at IHOP.... and thousands of people rooting for a big rainstorm, to stop more pollen from coming out....

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