The Heart of Texas is now the heart of private school athletics.
Waco will become the permanent home to 19 state championship games or tournaments for the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, the organization announced Wednesday at a press conference at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
The move brings 75 percent of TAPPS’ state championship events to Waco. The city was already established as the longtime host of the TAPPS state track and field meet at Baylor’s Clyde Hart Stadium, but now will be the home to more state championship events than any other city in Texas, said Will Phipps, executive director of the Greater Waco Sports Commission.
And TAPPS wants to strengthen its partnership with Waco even more in the future, said TAPPS executive director Bryan Bunselmeyer.
“Our goal within the next 18 months is to be making plans with the Waco area that it will be home for all of our championships,” Bunselmeyer said. “Heart of Texas, home of champions, it has a nice ring to it. I like the idea of being able to come back to familiar faces.”
Currently, the events that will remain elsewhere include the TAPPS 7-on-7 football state tournament, the relatively new sand volleyball state tournament and the state baseball and softball tournaments. Bunselmeyer said that the 7-on-7 event calls the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex home, due to the “amount of grass space you need” for that event.
The Waco ISD athletic complex formerly hosted the TAPPS state baseball and softball tournaments, until heavy rains one year prompted TAPPS to look elsewhere. They’re currently held in Austin, but Bunselmeyer said that they’ll likely return to Waco in the future, since Waco ISD has made steps toward installing artificial turf on all its fields.
Waco’s Cottonwood Creek Golf Course hosted the TAPPS state cross country meet last week, and witnessed a record number of both runners (1,407) and fans (more than 2,500). In fact, Bunselmeyer noted that it marked the first time TAPPS was able to collect a gate for its state cross country meet.
Beginning Thursday, Midway High School and West High School will act as the hosts for the TAPPS state volleyball tournament. That event will continue through Saturday, and includes Waco’s own Live Oak Classical.
Other TAPPS state contests that will call Waco home include the football six-man and 11-man championship games, which Midway will host Dec. 7-9, girls and boys soccer, girls and boys basketball, tennis, golf, and track and field. Waco will also be the home to TAPPS state contests in drum line, fall band, dance, cheer, art and academics, concert and sight reading and robotics.
In addition to those 19 state championship events, TAPPS will conduct nine different general meetings and all-state selection meetings at the Waco Convention Center.
The shift to Waco was a collaborative effort between TAPPS, the Greater Waco Sports Commission and the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“A lot of these events were happening naturally in Waco before the Sports Commission was started, but now we’ve partnered with the (Waco Convention Center) to formalize it a little more and try to shore up some of the events that were leaving Waco,” Phipps said. “The problem with Abilene (as the TAPPS state basketball host) was that the teams from Houston had to drive six hours to get there. So we just showed them, hey, Waco is a great, central location, you’re going to get a better turnout.”
Phipps estimated that the move to make Waco the primary home of TAPPS events would bring “tens of millions” of dollars in revenue to the city. More than 45,000 people attend the entirety of TAPPS state events annually, and teams and fans spend a combined 9,000 nights in hotels.
“We want people coming to Waco, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores,” he said. “That’s a great thing for Waco.”