Monday, November 30, 2009

Southern schools are teams to beat in Decatur in NAIA women's soccer

By Mark Edwards, Sports Editor, The Decatur Daily

The NAIA Women’s Soccer Championships kicked off Sunday evening with a banquet at Burningtree Country Club. Vanguard (Calif.) players Heather Mauck, left, and Kerri Currier, middle, laugh with head coach Randy Dodge.
Soccer in the South?
Actually, the world’s most popular sport is a powerful game at NAIA colleges and universities based in the South, where football, spring football and football recruiting occupy a large chunk of the public interest.
It’s fitting that the NAIA is bringing its women’s soccer championships to Decatur, and not just because of the laser-graded fields at the Jack Allen Soccer Complex.
When the NAIA tournament begins Monday at Jack Allen, the 16-team bracket will include several Southern teams, and they’re not just filling out the bracket.
Lindsey Wilson of Kentucky is seeded first, while Lee of Tennessee is second. Other Southern teams in the bracket include fifth-seeded William Carey (Miss.), No. 7 Martin Methodist (Tenn.), No. 10 Northwood (Fla.) and No. 14 Auburn-Montgomery.
The last five NAIA champions have come from the South — Lindsey Wilson in 2004 and ’06, Martin Methodist in 2005 and ’07 and Lee last year.
Since the championships began in 1984, the list of winners also includes Mobile once and Berry (Ga.) and Lynn (Fla.) three times each.
Lee coach Matt Yelton said it’s necessary for his program and other Southern NAIA powers to get solid support from their administrations, including a willingness to build a winning team.
“With West Coast schools, there’s a lot of talent out there for them to pick from,” Yelton said. “For schools like Martin, Lindsey Wilson and us, we have to do our recruiting a little wider.
“You can’t do that without your administration supporting you. ... We get the support that is the same as some mid-level Division I programs.”
While the rosters listed on the Web sites of third-seeded California Baptist and fourth-seeded Azusa Pacific (Calif.) show they are dominated by California-based players, the rosters for Lee, Lindsey Wilson and Martin include players from outside the Southeast. In some cases, they’re from out of the country.
Lindsey Wilson has players on its roster Canada, Jamaica, Demark, England, Brazil, Scottland, Australia, Japan, Mexico and Iceland.
So why do players from so far away want to come to Southern schools?
Hope Handley Clark, the third-year coach at Auburn-Montgomery, said the one of the reasons is obvious — the weather.
She has six players from Iceland, although more than half of her roster is made up of students from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.
“The warm climate and moderate temperatures make it easier to recruit to Southern states,” said Clark, a former standout goalkeeper at Virginia Tech. “That’s an advantage for the California schools, too.”
All games will be at Jack Allen?Soccer Complex. The tournament includes 16 teams and is single elimination.
Monday’s first round games10 a.m.: No. 4 Azusa Pacific (Calif.), 15-3-1, vs. No. 13 Indiana Wesleyan, 18-2-1
1 p.m.: No. 3 California Baptist, 16-4-1, vs. No. 14 Auburn-Montgomery, 15-4-2
4 p.m.: No. 1 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), 18-2-2, vs. No. 16 Southern Nazarene (Okla.), 17-3-1
7 p.m.: No. 2 Lee (Tenn.), 17-2-1, vs. No. 15 Trinity Christian (Ill.), 14-4-4
Tuesday’s first-round games
10 a.m.: No. 5 William Carey (Miss.), 20-1-1, vs. No. 12 Graceland (Iowa), 18-1-2
1 p.m.: No. 6 Concordia (Ore.), 19-2, vs. No. 11 McKendree (Ill.), 17-2-2
4 p.m.: No. 8 Vanguard (Calif.), 13-1-6, vs. unseeded Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.), 13-4-3
7 p.m.: No. 7 Martin Methodist (Tenn.), 15-2-2, vs. No. 10 Northwood (Fla.), 14-5
Wednesday’s games
10 a.m.: Quarterfinal matchup
1 p.m.: Quarterfinal matchup
4 p.m.: Quarterfinal matchup
7 p.m.: Quarterfinal matchup
Friday’s games
3 p.m.: Semifinal
6 p.m.: Semifinal
Saturday’s game
7 p.m.: Finals

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Celebrate downtown with holiday home tour

By Wendy Lang Beck,Columnist, Chatterbox, The Decatur Daily

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
It’s that time again to make your plans to enjoy the Christmas Tour of Homes. This annual event joins the Albany and Old Decatur historic districts for holiday touring complete with luminaries, greenery and thousands of lights.
Always held the second Saturday in December, mark your calendar for Dec. 12 from 3 to 8 p.m. to enjoy the many activities this festive occasion has to offer. Carriage rides will begin at 4 at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center on Church Street and at Delano Park near the tennis courts. Fall back in time as you wind your way around town by horse-drawn carriage for $10 per person.
You will find neighborhood church concerts a must event of the evening and presentations on the Alabama Tourism Department’s 2010 Year of Small Towns and Downtowns campaign by Director Lee Sentell and Christmas Tablescapes by award-winning floral designer Ross Railey. These presentations will begin at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Refreshments will also be available.
Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased in advance at the Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Bank Street Antiques, Trish Land Designs, Glee Interiors, The Paper Chase, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Jimmy Smith Jewelers and the Princess Theatre.
On the day of the tour, tickets can also be purchased at the Old State Bank, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Bank Street Antiques, Jimmy Smith Jewelers, and St. John’s Episcopal Church. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $10 each and must be purchased in advance at the Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Proceeds from the tour are used for neighborhood improvements, such as tree replenishment and public park restoration.

Morgan Price candy works as event bait

Amy Pollick, You Don't Say, The Decatur Daily

For Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell, the cost of a box of Morgan Price candy was giving a speech for the annual tourism awards breakfast hosted by the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association.
To show the city’s appreciation, CVB President Tami Reist presented Lee, a former Decatur tourism director, with a box of Morgan Price candy.
Amy PollickYou Don't Say
“That’s why I really came,” Lee said after receiving the candy, but before being recognized with the Julian Walker “Mr. Tourism” Award.
The “Mr. Tourism” award is presented annually to a person who contributes significantly beyond his professional duty to the development and promotion of tourism for Decatur and Morgan County.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Soccer Complex, Ingalls help limit lodging tax income loss

By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The city has the Jack Allen Soccer Complex and Ingalls Harbor to thank for only an 8 percent decrease in lodging taxes during fiscal 2009.
“This year has been a challenging year,” said Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Board Chairman Norman Roby.
“A few years ago our city leaders decided to bank on a new soccer field and boat harbor and results have paid off.”
In 2009, the payoff equaled 20 fishing tournaments and 28 soccer events.
CVB President Tami Reist said the economic impact generated by the sporting events helped ease the revenue lost from decreased industrial and business travel.
Compared to last year, the top five companies filling local hotel rooms booked 898 fewer room nights for the 12 months ending Sept. 30.
Although the Decatur-Morgan County tourism industry stumbled financially, officials remained focused on improving the area’s facilities.
Reist noted the purchase of a mobile performance stage and the press box at Jack Allen, which is instrumental in attracting larger and more notable tournaments.
Along with improving the city’s sports facilities, the CVB and Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association are working to develop the city’s art scene.
“We’re celebrating the past year, but I can’t help but look forward to 10 years from now, the time when the old railroad station is complete, when college students working in the fine arts inhabit downtown, when the renovation of Bank Street is complete with period design buildings,” Roby said.
During the annual meeting Thursday, the visitors bureau and hospitality association recognized individuals and corporations influential in Morgan County’s tourism.
Event of the Year went to Fishers of Men Tournament, which attracted more than 400 anglers, booked 641 room nights and generated an economic impact of approximately $295,000.
Top Five Corporate Companies producing the most room nights went to Tennessee Valley Authority, 3,816 nights; 3M, 2,683; Nucor Steel, 2,501; Daikin America, 1,967; and Toray, 1,665. Young Professional of the Year went to Tracy Bryan of Home-Towne Suites.
Kelly Varnell, recreational superintendent with Decatur Parks and Recreation, received a $1,000 scholarship to the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College.

Sentell, Smith get standing ovation for tourism work

By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Two titans of the tourism industry received standing ovations from grateful city and hospitality leaders during the annual tourism meeting Thursday.
As Jimmy Smith accepted the “Good Neighbor Award,” Lee Sentell led the applause. Later, Sentell, the Julian Walker “Mr. Tourism” Award winner, received his own ovation.
“Anytime you receive something from people you have known half your life it is a great honor,” said Sentell, Alabama Tourism Director. Gov. Bob Riley appointed him to the position in 2003.
For Sentell, the path to Montgomery began in 1980 when the Decatur Chamber of Commerce tapped him as the city’s first tourism director.
Armed with a budget of $55,000, Sentell formed the basis for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau — an organization, which operated with a $723,000 budget during fiscal 2009.
Sentell credited community leaders with Decatur’s success.
“The great thing about this tourism organization is that there is a collection of creative individuals who donated a lot of time to putting on events like Spirit of America, Alabama Jubilee and Christmas tour of homes,” he said. “There is a strong foundation here.”
Officials, residents and businesses, including Jimmy Smith Jewelers, built the foundation. The CVB and Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association recognized Smith, owner of Jimmy Smith Jewelers, with the “Good Neighbor Award,” for his impact on tourism.
During the past three decades, T-shirts for local festivals and sporting events, which listed Jimmy Smith Jewelers as a sponsor, showcased Smith’s contributions to the industry.
“It’s not your city and county. It’s not my city and county. It’s our city and county,” Smith said. “We need to support Morgan County because the events bring more people in and that is growth.”
The man who helped attract the Racking Horse Breeders Association to Priceville is working on his next project — overseeing the Celebration Arena.
“This is something that can benefit everybody,” Smith said.
Sentell also looked to the future of the city’s tourism industry. “Decatur still has a lot of growth, particularly in outdoor recreation and sports marketing,” Sentell said. “Jack Allen is known throughout the nation for its size and quality. It was a brilliant decision to build that many fields and it has paid off.”
Prior to leading the city’s tourism association, Sentell worked at The Decatur Daily for 12 years as a reporter and editor. After leaving Decatur, Sentell was tourism director for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the Huntsville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Under Sentell’s leadership, Alabama’s Tourism Department has grown by 45 percent to $9.3 billion expenditures a year and received the Southeast Tourism Society’s organization of the year award three of the past four years.
“My No. 1 job as tourism director is to remind people who live in Alabama of the great things we have in our state and make us proud,” Sentell said. “I still consider Decatur my hometown, and I’m so proud of my hometown.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Decatur Council approves service grants

The Decatur City Council approved more than $2.75 million in public-service contracts Monday.
The $522,000 for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau was approved.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Soccer month brings $1.3M boost to city

By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer

For many, November is the month to celebrate Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.
For the Jack Allen Complex, it’s soccer month.
The Southwest Decatur soccer center will host three tournaments predicted to generate a $1.3 million economic impact.
“The State Cup, the Governor’s Cup and the NAIA women’s tournament will make November a very busy month,” said Decatur Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dunlap.
Permanent fixtures
Since 2007, the Alabama Youth Soccer Association’s State Cup and Governor’s Cup have been held at the soccer complex.
This year, the city added the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics women’s championship.
Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimated the six-day tournament will bring in 16 teams, 400 players and 500 staff and fans from across the country.
The 2008 championship featured teams from California, Georgia, Michigan, Kentucky, Iowa, Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Florida and British Columbia.
For Decatur, the influx of tourists means a $580,000 economic boost.
“November and December used to be dead — there just wasn’t anything going on,” Dunlap said. “Now November is one of our busiest months.”
Officials expect the financial impact of the State Cup and Governor’s Cup to mirror last year’s numbers, $342,015 and $405,384, respectively.
Reist said the tournaments provide relief for local hotels, which typically rely on corporate business for revenue. During the past year, corporate travel has declined, directly impacting the hotels.
The financial impact of the tournaments extends past hotels — restaurants, sporting good stores and schools will all benefit.
“The schools are able to tap into the retail dollars,” Reist said. “All of the tourism brought in affects the city, retail stores and schools. It has a triple affect.”
Future income
Whether the state soccer tournaments will bring revenue into the city after this year remains in question. This the final year of a three-year contract for the tournaments.
Reist hopes future plans for the facility, like a press box, will lure the tournaments back.
“We are up for re-bid on this one. We are stressing the new press box and that Jack Allen won a prestigious award for its greens,” Reist said, referring to the 2009 President’s Award of Excellence the complex received from the Alabama Turfgrass Association.
In July, the Decatur City Council approved $150,000 for a press box.
Dunlap said contractors should start construction this week.
“We are pushing real hard to get it done by the NAIA women’s championship,” he said.
Recreation Superintendent Kelly Varnell said all of the NAIA games will take place at Jack Allen, while the state and governor’s cups will fill the fields at both Jack Allen and Point Mallard.
November soccer tournaments
Nov. 6-8: Alabama Youth Soccer Association State Cup preliminary games for Division I.
Nov. 6-8: Alabama Youth Soccer Association State Cup finals for Division II.
Nov. 13-15: Alabama Youth Soccer Association State Cup Division I final four.
Nov. 13-15: Alabama Youth Soccer Association Governor’s Cup.
Nov. 30 to Dec. 5: National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics women’s soccer championship.