The countdown is on for one of the biggest sporting events coming to the area.
Four months remain until Blanchard Woods Park plays host to the NCAA Division II men’s and women’s semifinals and finals. The event, will be run by a collaborative effort from the Columbia County-based Peach Belt Conference as well as local officials.
“It has to be a cooperative effort between Columbia County, Richmond County and the Peach Belt Conference,” Peach Belt Conference commissioner Dave Brunk said. “We all need to pull together on this to pull it off and make this a memorable experience for the student-athletes.”
Brunk said everything is on schedule for the tournament, which will feature eight teams (four men, four women) and will be held Nov. 29-Dec. 1. Blanchard Woods Park has added locker rooms to the stadium field, and the fields themselves are being renovated.
In early July, a turf planing company used a machine to shave the grass at the roots, smoothing out the stadium and practice fields. Brunk said the grass is starting to grow back, and the fields should be like new in September.
NCAA officials will come in for a site visit in August to check on all the logistics, such as the quality of the fields. The local soccer committee has been holding monthly meetings and already has lined up Savannah Rapids Pavilion for the tournament banquet. Also, Brunk mentioned his group is lining up a former member of the U.S. national team as the banquet’s keynote speaker – he can’t reveal the name yet, because the deal has to be confirmed.
“We’re on schedule,” Brunk said. “Since last fall, we’ve been working on different aspects. We know where we want things to be at Blanchard Woods Park.”
Brunk also said signage mentioning the Division II Final Four and National Championship will soon be placed around the area. That’s one of several items he and his committee have on their agenda.
“We have a big checklist of items that need to be done,” Brunk said. “The tournament will be nice. We’ll get it pulled off.”
Columbia County outbid Pensacola, Fla., and San Diego to earn the right to hold the Division II national championships for 2013 and 2014. The Peach Belt will give Blanchard Woods a test run for the Final Four and National Championship when it holds its conference tournament again at the park, Nov. 2-4.
The final four men’s and women’s teams will spend Wednesday, Nov. 28 as a practice day. The following day, the four semifinal games will start at 11 a.m. and run throughout the day on the stadium field.
After a day off Friday – a kids clinic will be held that day – the championship games will be held Saturday (noon, women; 3 p.m., men). Brunk said those times could change.