Last Stop: SoCon Tourney unlikely to return to Chattanooga - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Last Stop: SoCon Tourney unlikely to return to Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - This week, McKenzie Arena will serve as host to the Southern Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Championships.

It's the third time in seven years the Scenic City has been the site of the tournament.

Next year, the championship moves to a new home.

Tournament play tipped off Thursday afternoon with the opening round of the women's bracket.

Three games on the docket Thursday, and then it really ramps up with 6 games each of the next two days, starting bright and early at 9 a.m.

Semifinals are on Sunday, and of course championship games will hand out NCAA Tournament bids next Monday night.

It's third time in 7 years that this event comes to Chattanooga, but likely the last for awhile.

We know it's in Asheville for 3 years after this, for multiple reasons it may not be coming back.

So Thursday we wanted to find out how big of an impact that would be to Chattanooga financially. 

As it turns out, the Scenic City should be just fine.

"It's important for us to showcase Chattanooga, and UTC. And it's important for us to do that. This gives us the a great opportunity to do that," UTC Athletic Director Rick Hart's mission is to keep UTC a destination for championships.

In doing so, the university is only beefing up the community's economic growth.

The Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee has brought in a record just under $50 million in the past 2 years. Scott Smith says they're expecting another $25 million this year. "It says a lot about Chattanooga, our location, the things to do, the southern hospitality, it's an easy sell."

After this season, the conference tournament will move to Asheville for 3 years and it may not come back.

This tourney accounts for $1.5 million of the $25 million Smith is expecting on the year.

Smith says it's great to have, but there's no need to worry. "Our bread and butter is the huge youth events, softball and soccer events. Everything helps, but Chattanooga will be fine without these big collegiate events."

Those youth events have been known to bring in around $4 million each, and there are a few booked this summer.

Even if the Southern Conference tournament doesn't return, Smith hopes the Scenic City will do what it does best, in turn helping future economic growth.

"Hopefully some of the folks that come to these sporting events decide that this is where they'll plan their next family vacation. Or just make sure they get back to Chattanooga at a later destination with or without their favorite team."

As Scott Smith said, this tournament isn't going to make or break anything in terms of economic growth. But the fact is, this may be your last chance to catch a Southern Conference tournament right here in Chattanooga.

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