By John Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
Brace yourselves, because it’s going to be a huge sports weekend in Northeast Mississippi.
Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State will conduct their spring football games on Saturday, while upwards of 3,000 athletes and coaches are expected in Tupelo this week to take part in four very different events:
Tennis: Ten of the state’s best men’s and women’s community college teams will converge on Rob Leake Park, starting Thursday, for the Region 23 championships.
Soccer: The Division III district tournament, for players from 8 to 16, will attract teams from throughout Northeast Mississippi to Ballard Park.
Softball: The second annual 24/7softball.com tournament for adult men’s and women’s teams will attract about 75 teams to the Eastwood Softball Complex and Veterans Memorial Park.
Gymnastics: Gymnasts from eight southeastern states will participate in the Region 8 meet for Levels 7/8 at the BancorpSouth Arena.
“We can do all that at once, no problem,” said Matt Wyatt, director of sports development for the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. “That’s a good position for us to be in.”
It’s just coincidence that so many athletes from out of town will converge on the area later this week, Wyatt said.
“These things were planned and set on the calendar before I joined the staff of the CVB,” Wyatt said, giving credit to his predecessor, current CVB deputy director Neal McCoy, and Tupelo Parks and Rec tournament director Seth Gaines for their efforts.
“They put in a lot of hard work over the last 2-3 years and it’s paying dividends,” Wyatt said.
With each successful event held in the area, there’s more interest from more event organizers, Wyatt said.
“Folks who come here are going to walk away from the experience saying, ‘Wow, there were people there from everywhere,’ ” Wyatt added. “They’re going to like our facilities, they’re going to have nice stays in our hotels and they’re going to have a great experience in our eateries.”
The April 17 weekend was already circled on many fans’ calendars because of the college spring football games in Oxford and Starkville.
The Grove Bowl is Oxford is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday and will be seen on CSS. The Chucky Mullins Courage Award banquet is Thursday on campus.
The Mississippi State Maroon and White Game, 5 p.m. Saturday, is part of the Super Bulldog Weekend celebration that includes a weekend baseball homestand against Tennessee.