Mitchell Stadium

Players from Bluefield College use Mitchell Stadium, one of the Mercer venues the newly formalized Super Six South group is wanting to bring football finals to in the future.

BLUEFIELD — The Super Six South is now an officially formalized group with the main purpose of bringing the state high school football tournament finals to Mercer County.

Former state Del. Marty Gearheart is spearheading the effort and said the group’s first meeting was last week at the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias in Bluefield.

“We did establish that we are going to apply for a 5013c non-profit status,” he said. “That will put us in a position to accept grants. We have approached local folks for extending grants for seed money so we have something to work with.”

The purpose of the group, he said, is to bring the “Super Six” finals to the county, with the possibility of the two teams playing the single A division state championship game on Friday night at Hunnicutt Stadium in Princeton and the title games for the AA and AAA divisions on Saturday at Mitchell Stadium.

Gearheart said they want to get in a rotation of having the games played in the northern part of the state as well as the southern part, and Mercer County has all the facilities and amenities to host the tournament.

The championship games at one time were rotated, he said, and included Charleston and Bluefield (1975) but Wheeling has hosted them for about 20 years.

Although the tournaments are already set for this year, bringing them here in 2020 remains a possibility.

However, the proposal must be approved and accepted by the WVSSAC (West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission).

Gearheart’s group wants to have a proposal ready soon.

“We expect to receive a report from the WVSSAC in November and bid in December,” he said. “It will be awarded (for 2020) by the end of the year.”

With Wheeling always doing a good job, he knows Mercer County’s proposal will need to be “head and shoulders” above the rest.

“At this point in time we are just trying to tee it up to make a good pitch,” he said. “We can match that in Wheeling. But we need to have an offer that’s head and shoulders better.”

That pitch takes some work, he said, as well as the Super Six South group of about 25, which includes residents from business, education, sports, tourism and government.

“We have folks from all over,” he said. “We need a variety of members. We’re not only doing football games, but also academic achievement awards and planning to accommodate cheerleaders and fans.”

Gearheart said it’s time for a change in the location of the games and he envisions rotating with Wheeling with Super Six South in Bluefield one year and Super Six North in Wheeling the next.

That would give Wheeling tournament sponsors a break as well as allow time for more work to be done on the stadium there, which has a water/flooding issue, and possibly improve its parking problem.

Not only can Mercer County accommodate the games, the area would receive an economic boost with about 20,000 people coming here during championship weekend, staying in hotels and eating at restaurants and shopping.

Gearheart said previously he has also talked with Bluefield High School Football Coach Freddie Simon and others about what is expected and wanted by players and fans, what works and what doesn’t work.

“I wanted to know what they thought we can do to make it better,” he said.

That may include helping to offset some of the expenses to the teams to bring them here, and may involve the cooperation of Bluefield State College and Concord University.

Mitchell Stadium, one of the most revered football stadiums in the state and beyond, has a seating capacity of 10,000, large enough for the games. Hunnicutt Stadium in Princeton could also be used for one of the championship games.

“We want to include Princeton,” he said. “This is a county effort.”

It would also provide an opportunity for people to see what is offered here, including skiing and ATV tails.

As far as the WVSSAC is concerned, Gearheart said they receive the money from the ticket sales so that would not be an issue here.

Officers of the Super Six South include Gearheart as the chair, Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the secretary and Matt Martin the treasurer.

Gearheart said Null and the City of Bluefield’s IT department have put together an “outstanding” video to present to the WVSSAC and it’s a matter of basically showing them it’s an opportunity that should not be turned own.

The Super Six South group plans to meet again at the chamber offices on Sept. 5.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com