College football returns to Phenix City with White Water Classic

Phenix City has gone back to the playbook and is using football as an economic development tool.

City officials announced Friday the city will spend more than $100,000 to bring the Tuskegee-Albany State game to newly renovated Garrett-Harrison Stadium on Sept. 13. Kickoff is 3 p.m.

City officials hope a collegiate game in Garrett-Harrison Stadium will become an annual event and have trademarked the name White Water Classic, Mayor Eddie Lowe said.

“This is a good game to get it started,” Lowe said. “We hope to get other teams to consider coming here and play.”And Tuskegee was the perfect fit, Athletic Director Curtis Campbell said.

“For the first time we have played in Phenix City, I wanted a good football game — and it will be a good football game,” Campbell said.

It will also be good financially for the Tuskegee athletic program.

It is Tuskegee’s home game, and the university will receive $100,000 for moving it, according to a contact approved by council at a called meeting on Friday. In addition to the money, the deal call for Phenix City to provide Tuskegee with 58 hotel rooms for one night, a hotel meeting room, training room, dinner for the team on Sept. 12 and breakfast on Sept. 13, transportation for the football team and band from Tuskegee to Phenix City and back, to pay the game officials and use of the baseball pressbox.

Tickets will be $20 each and go on sale next month. Phenix City will get all ticket revenue and food and souvenir concessions. The city is planning concerts and events around the classic, City Manager Wallace Hunter said.

“The work on everything that will surround the game has just begun,” Hunter said.

The city, through projections with is economic development department and Troy University, is expecting a $400,000 economic benefit from the game.

This marks a return of college football to the Phenix City stadium.

The NCAA Division III national championship game — the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl — was played in the stadium 15 times between 1973-89.

Both Tuskegee and Albany State already play games in Columbus. The Tuskegee-Morehouse game at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium in mid-October is the longest running black college classic in the nation. Albany State plays rival Fort Valley State in early November in the Fountain City Classic.

Campbell said he let the Tuskegee-Morehouse officials know he was in contract talks with Phenix City for the White Water Classic.

Playing two games in Columbus-Phenix City in a month is a good thing, Campbell said.

“You can’t get too much exposure in this area,” he said.

The city has spent about $2.5 million renovating Garrett-Harrison Stadium over the last seven years with an eye on bringing back college games that will bring fans to the city.

The third phase of the project to improve the stadium is almost complete. The latest phase has cost about $800,000 and included a new artificial playing surface, fencing, a concrete path on the out of the field and a new scoreboard. The scoreboard, with a video component, is expected to be installed later this month.

The previous improvements have included a press box, new dressing rooms and renovation of existing dressing rooms.

“The work on the stadium played a big role in us deciding to play here,” Campbell said of the decision to move the game.

The stadium serves as the home of the Central High School Red Devils.

Central High opens its season at Garrett-Harrison on Aug. 22 against Stockbridge, Ga. Central has agreed to move its Sept. 12 home game against Robert E. Lee of Montgomery to Sept. 11 to give the city’s Parks and Recreation Department time to prepare for the classic, Councilmember Chris Blackshear said during Friday’s announcement.