The return of the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star games to Conway this week is expected to have a positive impact on the community, including its economy, according to Conway Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Jamie Gates.
With the return of the all-star games, for the first time in 10 years, several hundred high school athletes, and their families will descend upon Conway. In conjunction with the all-star games, approximately 2,000 high school coaches are expected for the annual Arkansas High School Coaches Association clinic that will be held at the University of Central Arkansas.
The influx in visitors is expected to cause a rise in sales for Conway businesses, hotels and restaurants.
“Hotels and restaurants will definitely realize the benefits,” Gates said.
Gates said it was a team effort and approach, involving various people and entities, including former Conway athletic director Buzz Bolding, that helped Conway land the event.
Bolding said when the games were moved to Fayetteville 10 years ago, Mayor Tab Townsell, UCA officials and others all said they wanted to form a coalition in the bidding process the next available opportunity, and have a committee in place to help the process. Fayetteville hosted the event in two five-year terms.
Bolding described the effort as a “community project.”
According to Gates, the committee has met regularly for more than a year to prepare.
The last time Conway hosted the event, only football and basketball games were played, as other sports had separate all-star events. Since then, the AHSCA has combined the all-star event to include soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball, along with football and basketball.
“What is especially rewarding is what is coming back to Conway is a much larger suite of events than what left,” Gates said.
With the improvements in facilities, and addition of several restaurants, including in downtown Conway, Gates said the committee felt Conway was the best city to host the event.
“We’re a community that’s better equipped to host now,” he said.
Bolding said that former University of Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles directed the process of getting the all-star games in Fayetteville, where it has stayed the past decade.
“It was hard to compete with their facilities,” Bolding said. “But things have changed, and we made a better bid this time.”
The upgrades in athletic facilities at UCA also played a vital role in the games returning to Conway, according to both Gates and Bolding.
UCA’s athletic facilities have undergone a facelift over the past five years since moving to NCAA Division I. The upgrades include new turf and seating at the baseball and softball facilities, and a purple and gray turf, and suites at Estes Stadium and improvements to the Farris Center.
Gates classified the facilities as a “different world of facilities” than the last time Conway hosted the all-star event.
“Location is also obviously a big deal,” Gates said. “Having a central location creates a lot of opportunity for increased attendance and awareness.”
Bolding said he was happy to be a part of the effort to get the event back to Conway, but praised the work of others, especially that of the city’s advertising and promotions commission.
“Conway is my home,” he said. “I’ll do anything in the world to help Conway and its institutions.”
The all-star games begin Tuesday and run through Friday night.
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)