A year to the day after becoming its director, Roachel Laney spoke on the Boone Area Sports Commission’s first year and future sporting events to the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority at its Jan. 14 meeting.
Laney, along with Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Jackson, gave the presentation. The BASC and Laney’s position are funded by both the Boone Area Chamber and the Watauga County TDA.
Laney said that when he started in his role Jan. 14, 2019, he gave Jackson a six-month commitment, as he was retired prior to accepting the job. Laney said that at six months, he didn’t even bring up stepping down.
A former App State athletics director, Laney said his first year saw him get to know community members. In 2020, Laney said he’s looking to attend national meetings, seminars and conferences to network with other sports commissions.
“I’ve gone to every chamber event offered in this community,” Laney said. “I’ve spent the last year getting to know younger people, because people my age are retiring.”
Laney said that youth sporting events can be important because economic impacts from those events are immune to recession.
“Few parents will deprive their children (of) participating in sports,” Laney said.
The first part of Laney and Jackson’s report focused on the events the BASC helped host in 2019, such as the 2019 Southern Conference Wrestling Championship, the Ted Mackorell Soccer Classic between the Tri-Cities Otters and Tobacco Road F.C., the U.S. Adventure Racing National Championship and the High Country Wrestling Tournament.
Jackson said that the soccer game, held in July, was in front of 720 mostly soccer camp kids at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Stadium.
The U.S. Adventure Racing National Championship featured 50 teams consisting of 146 athletes who spent three nights in Boone from Sept. 26-28, Jackson said. Adventure racing is where small teams compete with each other to complete disciplines such as trail running/trekking, mountain biking, paddling and orienteering in the shortest period of time.
“It was not just one group we’re dealing with, we’re running the gambit from kindergartners racing to adults,” Laney said.
The inaugural High Country Wrestling Tournament was held in Varsity Gym in late 2019, Laney said, and which featured kids from kindergarten to fifth grade competing. Jackson said that many local wrestling groups saw the success of it and want to be a part of it going forward.
Going into 2020, Laney said he wishes to turn the High Country Wrestling Tournament into an AAU event and complimented the App State Wrestling program for helping out.
Jackson said that the High Country could become a hub for wrestling, noting App State’s national success in the sport. Jackson echoed the 2018 sports tourism report commissioned by the Boone Area Chamber and Watauga TDA, in which National Association of Sports Commissions founder Don Schumacher said that the High Country could excel at offering indoor mat sports tournaments, such as karate, wrestling and other martial arts.
Laney said he’s hoping to learn of a completion timeline for the Watauga County Recreation Center, saying that there’s a number of interested parties.
Hosting conference championships with Appalachian State University is a goal of the BASC. In 2019, Boone hosted the Sun Belt Men’s Soccer Championship in November and the Southern Conference Wrestling Championship in March. Both events were considered a success, Laney said.
Laney noted that in November 2020, the App State and the Holmes Center will host the Sun Belt Volleyball Championships. In the future, the plan is to pursue NCAA conference and regional events, even if App State teams aren’t competing, mentioning wrestling and cross country specifically.
Laney added that the Appalachian Roller Derby club is very close to formalizing a home match that would take place in April in Varsity Gym. Laney added that the team hasn’t hosted a home match in several years.
Other notes from Laney included the need for volunteers for the Will Dicus Memorial Baseball Tournament, which takes place in June; as well as trying to work with the Hickory Crawdads minor-league baseball team on a future event in Boone. The Special Olympics North Carolina Winter Games, a longtime staple of Blowing Rock, was held Jan 12-13 and will return Feb. 2-3. The games bring more than 300 people to the area, Laney added.