WHEELING, W.Va. — Most struggle to quantify the economic impact of the West Virginia Super Six on Ohio County over the last two decades, but it doesn’t take advanced calculus to figure out the annual high school football championships’ departure would leave a gaping hole in the area tourism industry.
Fortunately for local hotel owners and restaurateurs, they won’t have to worry about that for at least another four years.
Wheeling won its bid to host the Super Six through 2019, according to John Marshall High School Principal Rick Jones, a member of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission. It was approved unanimously by the WVSSAC board in Parkersburg Monday morning.
According to Jones, Charleston and Huntington failed to submit plans because they could not guarantee field availability for the four years of the Super Six contract.
Frank O’Brien, executive director of the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates that visitors spend anywhere from $13 to $15 per day on food and $85 to $150 on a hotel room – meaning a family of four likely spends a minimum of $140 to $210 during a one-night stay, not counting any shopping they may do at The Highlands or other events they may attend while in town.
“It’s made a big difference. It’s a big deal,” O’Brien said of the Super Six.
According to O’Brien, the tourism industry supports about 4,000 jobs throughout Ohio County. And events such as the Super Six boost hotel/motel tax revenue, a portion of which directly supports operations at WesBanco Arena and the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling.
O’Brien added the Super Six games always coincide with the Festival of Lights at Oglebay, and there are often shows at the theatre and Nailers games at the arena during Super Six weekend.
“We are absolutely thrilled that we can host this again because it gives us an opportunity to showcase Wheeling (to visitors) when they’re not playing football,” he said.
Wheeling Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey said during the fall, Morgantown draws the lion’s share of attention due to West Virginia University football, while Charleston takes center stage from January through March when the Legislature is in session. December – with Super Six weekend and the Festival of Lights – becomes Wheeling’s time to shine, he said.
“In August, when practice starts, their dream is to get to Wheeling,” Fahey said of West Virginia high school football players.
The West Virginia state football championships have been held at Wheeling Island Stadium since 1994, when the city beat out Charleston during bidding. The three title games – Class AA on Friday night and Class AAA and A on Saturday – are held each year during the first weekend in December.
Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart and Wheeling Park athletics director Dwaine Rodgers led the charge for the bid this time. Stewart said it is a team effort that produces positive results in keeping the Super Six in Wheeling.
Members of the WVSSAC Board of Directors include Clay-Battelle High School Principal David Cottrell, president; Jones, vice president; South Charleston High School Principal Mike Arbogast; Valley Fayette High School Principal Craig Lee Loy; Huntington High School Principal Greg Webb; Summers County High School Principal Wayne Ryan; Gregory Prudich of Princeton, W.Va.; Eddie Campbell of Parsons, W.Va.; Jim Wilson of Glen Dale; and Robert Dunlevy of Wheeling.