The Rocket City Classic has evolved from a Huntsville appearance by a popular basketball team into relationship destined to enhance the city’s role on the sports landscape.
On Tuesday night, the Alabama Crimson Tide men’s basketball team will host Mercer at 8 p.m. at the Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center. It’s the second game of a doubleheader, with the UAH Chargers meeting Shorter at 5:15.
Alabama vs. Mercer game preceded by UAH-Shorter
The Alabama-Mercer game will be televised live on the SEC Network – and that’s your only viewing option if you don’t already have tickets. All tickets have already been sold.
The Tide defeated Arkansas State last season in the inaugural Rocket City Classic, filling the VBC that night as well.
Knight Eady, a Birmingham-based sports marketing firm, is the promoter for the Rocket City Classic, working closely with numerous of Huntsville entities, including event title sponsor Huntsville International Airport.
The Huntsville Sports Commission has played the key role in representing the City in its dealings with Knight Eady. Mark Whitworth, the chief operating officer for Knight Eady, made two announcements Monday built upon that relationship with the Sports Commission:
“Elevate The Stage,” a gymnastics competition, will be held March 9-11 at the Von Braun Center.
It will feature a meet between The University of Alabama and Auburn University gymnastics teams, the first such meeting of the two in Huntsville. Both teams were among the 36 teams in the NCAA gymnastics championships last year and Alabama finished No. 6.
There will be a Junior Olympics component to “Elevate The Stage,” expected to have some 1,000 competitors, many from out of town.
Sports Commission partnership
Knight Eady announced it is partnering with the Huntsville Sports Commission to develop a long-range strategic plan for the organization’s growth, to be rolled out in summer, according to Whitworth.
The Sports Commission, a not-for-profit group that is funded through the City of Huntsville, has created some $100 million in economic impact for the area since it was created in 1999.
The mission, says Sports Commission Executive Director Ralph Stone, “is to identify, recruit and host sporting events for the purpose of economic impact to our community.” The role can be anywhere from serving in a tournament director capacity to simply facilitating lodging and sites for the event.
“This just reinforces our commitment to partner with the Sports Commission and bring top-flight sporting events to Huntsville,” Whitworth said.
He praised the willingness of the City of Huntsville and other partners of the Rocket City Classic “to really engage and make this a special event for the teams. The other thing we’re excited about is being able to expand it to a doubleheader and involve UAH and the great program that Coach (Lennie) Acuff has built.”
On Monday morning, both the Alabama and UAH teams visited the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for a tour. They were welcomed to Huntsville by City Administrator John Hamilton and given a brief talk by retired Army Gen. Bob Stewart, an astronaut who made two Space Shuttle flights, before spending time with children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama.