N.C. Wesleyan President Dr. James Gray was perplexed when he began thinking about the location of the USA South’s Spring Championships four years ago.
The conference was holding its event in Burlington, which wasn’t taxing on the school’s budget for travel by any means, but Gray didn’t understand how a city without any connection to the league reaped the benefits of such an event.
Gray did some research, overcame a major venues obstacle and five years later, N.C. Wesleyan and the city of Rocky Mount have their names attached to a major sporting event.
The USA South Spring Championships return for a second year, and it has given the Bishops and the city they call home a weekend to work together from April 10-14.
“We’re proud that Wesleyan can help the city,” Gray said. “It has been important for us the past four years to connect with the city. Our relationship wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t much there. This is a great way to help the city and get to the know the city. It’s a great event.”
Athletes from men’s tennis, women’s lacrosse, baseball, softball, men’s golf and men’s tennis will compete at locations throughout the city and Wilson and Franklin counties.
The facility that swayed everything in the city’s favor is the tennis facility at N.C. Wesleyan.
The courts, which opened last season and were used for the 2013 tournament, were built with a $1 million in raised funds.
The previous courts at N.C. Wesleyan only had six singles courts, and to be the host site for the tournament, Gray learned that the school needed 12 courts and an indoor facility, which the tournament used in the neighboring Belmont complex during rainy sessions.Everything went so well last year that the league extended Rocky Mount’s two-year agreement by another year to 2015.
“We over-prepared, and that was a good thing,” Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Superintendent of Recreation Joel Dunn said during a news conference for the event Tuesday. “The USA South folks were happy when they left, and we believe that’s a big reason why we were awarded an additional year in 2015.”
Nash County Travel & Tourism Executive Director Alex Boncek said that Nash County can expect to receive a boost of more than $500,000 because of the championships.
“We’d like for Rocky Mount to be its home – for it to be here every single year in Rocky Mount,” Mayor David Combs said.
More than 100 local high school ambassadors will assist with the tournament in areas including concessions. The baseball events will take place at Wilson’s Fleming Stadium and Zebulon’s Five County Stadium. Benvenue Country Club will play host to the men’s golf event, while lacrosse will be played at the Sports Complex.
An inquiry followed by action and a cooperative effort has placed N.C. Wesleyan and the region in the middle of the USA South’s biggest weekend.
“It’s good exposure, even though only one event will be on our campus,” Gray said.