BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) announced on April 5 that the high school football championships will be held in Daytona Beach for Classes 4A through 8A.
The games in Daytona will be played at Daytona Stadium (formerly Municipal Stadium) from Dec. 11-14.
This will be the first time championships games will be played in both Daytona and Daytona Stadium since the FHSAA last held them here from 1993-1996 and 1989-1990.
“We think that Daytona is the right place for these games. The city, county, CBE and everyone is behind it. We haven’t had it for decades. We have strength with everyone involved. Also, DME is a very strong marketing company. We thought that we could offer a better solution and a better product,” said Daytona Stadium Director Mike Panaggio.
DME Sports Academy, which is an offshoot of DME, a local digital marketing company, took over operations of the stadium in February 2018. DME has a 30-year lease with the city on the stadium.
Panaggio is both a co-founder and co-owner of DME and DME Sports Academy.
It was also announced that championship games for Classes 1A through 3A will be held at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee from Dec. 5-7.
In recent years, the FHSAA football championships were played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
“After listening to feedback from our membership, we felt having two locations stretched out over two weeks made the most sense. This new schedule gives families and fans the most flexibility when it comes to supporting their student-athletes and we are thrilled both Visit Tallahassee and DME Marketing made this possible, said George Tomyn, FHSAA executive director.
‘A good thing’
The last time multiple venues hosted the FHSAA championships was in 2005 when then Dolphin Stadium in Miami hosted Classes 3A-6A and Florida International University (FIU) Community Stadium in Miami had Classes 1A-2A.
Local businesses also see these events as a positive and welcome a chance for an economic boost.
“Of course it’s a good thing. They were here years ago and now they are coming back, which is good for our hotels and restaurants. It’s not just the players and coaches coming but also their family and friends,” stated Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.
Doing it big
Another goal is to create a special type of atmosphere for the players, coaches, teams, schools, media, fans and community.
“We plan to partner with the FHSAA to promote these events. We plan to partner with every school participated. We want to make these feel like a BCS Bowl. We will have tents everywhere and even a special area for the media,” Panaggio noted.
“We plan to do this at a high level. We plan to do a great job and make it classy. We are going to do it big. We want to make this something everyone could be proud of in Daytona Beach.’’
Daytona Stadium has a capacity of just under 10,000. It recently underwent $20 million in renovations, including a new field turf, remodeled locker rooms, an open-air VIP club, VIP space with theater seating and a completely redesigned expansive concourse area.
Daytona Stadium is also home for three local football teams – Bethune-Cookman University, which plays at the NCAA Division I Football Champion Series level – and local high schools Mainland and Seabreeze, who play at the 6A FHSAA classification.
Cox Stadium in Tallahassee has a capacity of 6,500. It last hosted a championship in 1986 Class 3A state championship between Tallahassee Godby and Clewiston.
It also recently had $800,000 in renovations, including a new field turf and a pair of high definition video boards.
Around the sports world
Orlando Magic: The Orlando Magic won the southeast division title and made it to the NBA playoffs after beating the Boston Celtics on 116-108 on April 7. The Magic return to the postseason for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
Local collegians in March Madness: Bethune-Cookman University senior forward Chasimmee Brown and her twin brother University of Central Florida senior forward Chad Brown both played in the NCAA tournament for the first time this season. Both were high school standouts at Deltona High. B-CU (21-11) won the MEAC tournament and fell to NCAA tournament runner-up Notre Dame in the opening round. UCF (24-9) lost to Duke in the second round after beating Virginia Commonwealth University in the first round.
Youth baseball: Despite the struggles to attract kids and field teams, youth baseball is going on in the city of Daytona Beach. TBall thrives at Derbyshire Sports Complex and Baseball is played at Bethune Point Park. The program fields a team playing Machine Pitch (ages 7-8), Minors (ages 9-10) and Majors (ages11-12). Hats off to the players, parents, coaches and sponsors.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning began the NHL playoffs on Wednesday. Tampa Bay has put a remarkable season and are one of the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup. The Lightning went 62-16-4 during the regular season. Their 62 wins tied an NHL record with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings.