“Elevate the Stage” might be the event’s official title. But the fans from the respective institutions might prefer an alternate monicker: “The Iron Bowl of Gymnastics.”
The University of Alabama and Auburn University gymnastics teams, both nationally ranked, will face each other in a dual meet in Huntsville on Friday, March 9.
That’s one facet of “Elevate the Stage,” which will take place on an Olympic-style podium at the Von Braun Center’s Propst Arena over the course of the March 9-11 weekend.
We expect another sellout – and a great evening for the people in Huntsville.”
The second facet is a youth gymnastics meet with more 1,000 competitors expected, including more than 850 from out of town. Said Ralph Stone, executive director for the Huntsville Sports Commission, “That will generate a good economic impact for the city.”
The Alabama-Auburn meet will begin at 7 p.m. and more than 3,000 tickets have already been sold, according to Mark Whitworth, chief operating officer of Knight Eady, the event promoter. Tickets are available at the Von Braun Center and through Ticketmaster.
“It’s another great opportunity for us to work with the Huntsville Sports Commission and others in Huntsville,” said Whitworth, whose company has promoted the two sold-out appearances by the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team the past two Decembers. “The city has supported the other events we’ve brought to the market and we expect another sellout – and a great evening for the people in Huntsville.”
The Alabama-Auburn meet, traditionally held in Birmingham, will feature “two of nationally known programs and some of the finest names in collegiate gymnastics,” Whitworth said.
Alabama is ranked No. 7 and Auburn No. 16 in the latest College Gymnastics Association ratings. Alabama, now coached by Dana Duckworth, is one of the most prominent programs in collegiate gymnastics history, with six NCAA titles and eight SEC championships. Auburn, coached by Jeff Graba, has made 15 consecutive NCAA appearances.
“The presentation of the meet with multiple events at one time is amazing to see, Whitworth said. “And the athleticism and skill of the student-athletes is remarkable.”
Elevate the Stage podium is special platform
The podium on which the competitors perform is an extra twist. It is seldom used in individual meets, but is utilized for SEC, NCAA and Olympic events.
It also means a special treat for the younger gymnasts who’ll compete on the same platform on Saturday and Sunday. (Because of the number of competitors, some events will also take place in the adjacent South Hall.)
Huntsville International Airport is partnering with Elevate the Stage as the primary sponsor.
Smile-A-Mile and the Ronald McDonald House are philanthropic partners and children from both organizations will be recognized at the event and participate in the awards presentation.