MONTGOMERY – The Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control approved moving the upcoming 2022 AHSAA East Regional Softball Championship Tourney Qualifier to Albertville’s Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater. The Regional is scheduled to be played May 11-14, 2022. The move was approved at Thursday’s annual Fall Central Board meeting held at the AHSAA Office in Montgomery.
The Central Board also approved the application of Tuscaloosa Academy as a full member beginning with the 2022-23 school year.
The East Regional contract terms of agreement is for three years. Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater will also host the East Regional qualifier tourney in 2023 and 2024.
AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs praised the AHSAA staff and Central Board for moving quickly to resolve the regional softball tourney concern in such a positive way.
“We are thankful that our state has so many cities and communities ready to step to the forefront when it concerns our member schools,” he said. “We truly appreciate our friends in Albertville and Marshall County for stepping forward and thank our friends in Tuscaloosa for their many years of service.”
The other three regional softball sites will remain at Gulf Shores (South), Lagoon Park (Central) and Florence (North). Tuscaloosa, which has served as a regional tourney host since 2013, elected not to host a tournament beginning this school year. The 2022 state tourney will be returning to Oxford’s Choccolocco Park.
The Central Board also approved a new regional alignment for the 2022 softball playoffs to align schools to a site closer in proximity to reduce travel.
“After visiting the Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater in Albertville, there was never a doubt that this facility would be an elite venue to host one of the AHSAA Regional Softball tournaments,” said AHSAA Associate Executive Director Kim Vickers, who is also director of softball. “Its state-of-the-art facilities will provide our students an experience of a lifetime, and we are very grateful the City of Albertville came forth and agreed to partner with the AHSAA to host the East Regional Tournament.”
She said changing venues in the middle of a classification period did present some challenges. “It will mean that some schools will be reassigned to a different regional location,” Vickers said. “I am confident these schools will appreciate the change once they visit Sand Mountain Park.”
Patrick O’Brien, general manager at Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater, said excitement is high in Albertville.
“Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater is thrilled to announce this partnership with AHSAA with the support of Marshall County Tourism & Sports,” he said. “This high school softball tournament falls directly in-line with our mission at the park which is to improve the mental and physical health of the region and drive economic impact.”
He said Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater is very excited to welcome teams throughout the region to one of the best softball facilities in the entire state of Alabama.
“The experience for the event stakeholders will be first-class,” O’Brien added. “The City of Albertville’s vision for the park is coming to fruition by earning the chance to host events of this caliber. We are so thankful for the opportunity to partner with AHSAA, and are also very thankful for the support from Marshall County Tourism & Sports.”
Katy Norton, President of Marshall County Tourism & Sports, also expressed her group’s enthusiasm. "We are excited to have the opportunity to host the Alabama High School Association's Regional Softball tournament, and to showcase our newest facility, Sand Mountain Park, located in Albertville,” she said. “We look forward to offering participating student-athletes, families and coaches a spectacular experience in Marshall County Alabama, home of Lake Guntersville, Alabama's great natural attraction."
The softball regional realignment for the 2022 season will be available at www.ahsaa.com this week.
The extremely popular AHSAA regional softball playoff format was first approved in 2010 with four regional sites at Gulf Shores, Troy, Vestavia Hills and Huntsville. The South Regional has been held at Gulf Shores every year since. The regional at Vestavia’s Liberty Park moved to Tuscaloosa in 2013 and remained there through the 2021 school year. The regional at Troy was moved to Oxford and the regional in Huntsville was moved to Florence in 2019. Lagoon Park, which had been the site for the state softball tourney since its inception in 1986, became a regional tourney host in 2021 and Oxford’s Choccolocco Park became the site for the state tourney.
The Board also discussed other possible championship venue concerns in other sports.