Conway and UCA officials have combined to bring the June high school all-star games to Conway for the next five years — and in a enlarged package.
The board of directors of the Arkansas Activities Association, at its summer workshop in North Little Rock, awarded Conway the annual Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star games for the next five years. The games, which Conway hosted until 2002, have been held at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville the last 10 years. That contract expires with next week’s games.
In addition, UCA will host the AHSCA clinic, which it didn’t host the last time it was the site of the all-star games. The clinic was held in North Little Rock until Fayetteville got the contract.
"What is exciting is what’s coming is a lot more than what it was when it left," said Jamie Gates, senior vice president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, which worked with Conway business leaders, UCA officials and former Conway High athletic director Buzz Bolding in developing the successful bid. "There will be more sports, more participants. It’s a lot bigger event. We’re excited to renew our relationships with the AAA and the coaches association. Our businesses are excited about thousands of people coming here each June."
When Conway last hosted, UCA hosted all-star games only in boys and girls basketball and football. Since then, All-Star Week has evolved into a series of games that include softball, baseball, soccer, volleyball plus events for cheer and dance. Games will be played Monday through Thursday during the third week in June.
The Conway Convention and Visitors Bureau committed to a five-year sponsorship of $45,000 per year.
During Conway’s presentation before the AAA, officials noted the facility, housing and operational costs were less expensive than Fayetteville, the proximity of competition, practice and clinic sites, and their facilities were the best size for the all-star events and that the city has become a popular site for youth sports events. They emphasized Conway’s central location with 110 of the state’s 239 school districts within a 90-minute drive and a million Arkansans also within 90 minutes.
"What was also encouraging was the $45,000 sponsorship was lower than what Fayetteville bid five years ago," said Gates. "This was not a case of Conway going out and buying the event. The attractiveness and location of our community is what we sold and that’s what paid off."
Conway officials also emphasized that the city has much more hotel accommodations and restaurants than 10 years ago and UCA has built or renovated its facilities during that period.
"What is really appealing is we can host almost everything on campus, including the coaching clinic, with better venues," said Brad Teague, UCA athletic director. "They don’t have to go to an SEC venue anymore to have quality sites on campus. And we will benefit from 250 or so high school kids being on our campus and using our facilities. I think it will be great for recruiting. Their families and other spectators, who haven’t been to our campus lately, will get a different perspective, I think, on what we have here.
"And our facilities are the right size for this. I think they will create a great atmosphere."
The football game will be held at First Security Field at Estes Stadium. Basketball and volleyball will be held at the Farris Center. UCA will also host softball and baseball at its campus stadiums. Soccer will be played at John McConnell Stadium at Conway High.
Buzz Bolding Arena at Conway High, Hendrix’s Wellness and Athletic Center, the Don Owen Sports Center and the McGee Center, as well as other facilities at UCA and Conway High, will be practice locations.
The Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center will be the host site for the AHSCA clinic and expo, which attracts hundreds of coaches and vendors annually. Reynolds Performance Hall and the UCA Business School building will also host clinic events.
Other aspects of the UCA proposal:
• Athletes will be housed at Baridon, Arkansas, State, Farris, Bear, Carmichael and New halls at UCA. The coaches association will be responsible for all housing costs, estimated to be at $17,810. UCA will assume all parking and security costs and related expenses.
• Meal costs at Christian Cafeteria, estimated to be at $20,586.70, will be paid at 40 percent by Conway’s hosting group and 60 percent by the AHSCA.
• Hotel rooms for AHSCA members will be paid in full by members. The Arkansas Activities Association staff will have all their costs paid by the host.
• The AHSCA assumes all transportation costs for practice and games not to exceed $200 per day.
• Additional events include a golf tournament at Centennial Valley Country Club and The Links at Nutters Chapel and a reception for all participants at Centennial Valley Country Club.