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Fans gather to support the White House Heritage softball team at their home opener in 2017. Fans will descend on Murfreesboro this week for the 2021 Spring Fling. 

MURFREESBORO — Employees at Bojangles’ Famous Chicken and Andy’s Frozen Custard are located right in the mix, less than a mile from Murfreesboro Sports Complex.

They haven’t seen huge customer rushes yet, but they’re coming.

At the local Holiday Inn Express, general manager Amy Harris will likely have to turn a few travelers away.

“We are sold out every day this week,” she said.

Carloads of people arrive here each spring — in normal times, anyway— with water, snacks, sunscreen and sunglasses, prepared to soak in as many games as they can handle.

Seven TSSAA state championships will be conducted across 13 venues in the Rutherford County area for this year’s Spring Fling, which is billed by the TSSAA as the only high school Olympic-style spring sports championship of its kind in the United States.

In 2021, things are again as they should be.

It is a welcome return to the annual high school sports pageantry that was canceled last year due to COVID-19. And for Rutherford County and Murfreesboro businesses, it’s a financial boon not taken for granted.

Fast-food joints like Taco Bell, sit-down restaurants like Toot’s, gas stations and other stop-offs could all see increases in business. An estimated 30,000 new visitors will be their patrons.

Rutherford County lost an estimated $3.5 million in revenue last year due to Spring Fling’s cancelation, according to Barbara Wolke, who is the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The county estimates it will gain the same amount of revenue from the event’s return.

Those dollars aren’t taken for granted.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau recently submitted a proposal to the TSSAA to “hopefully” continue hosting the Spring Fling,” Wolke said in an email. Its four-year contract with the TSSAA ends this year.

Chattanooga was awarded the 1994 Spring Fling and did everything it could to secure the bid for years to come. Its initial three-year contract was extended a fourth year. The city outbid seven others for the event in 1997 and was selected to host five more years in 1998.

Spring Fling moved to Memphis in 2003 and has been in Murfreesboro since 2006.

The city is experiencing the event a little differently this year, since Middle Tennessee State University is unable to host some championships due to capacity restrictions caused by the pandemic. But local schools — Wilson Central, Siegel, Oakland, Blackman, Rockvale, MTCS, Riverdale and Stewarts Creek — got an opportunity to pick up revenue percentages from ticket sales, which are precious following a year many schools and businesses lost money.

It makes for a busy week around the Holiday Inn Express, Harris said, stretching the housekeeping department especially thin.

Rutherford County has 55 hotels with approximately 5,500 hotel rooms, according to The Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It’s difficult to put a financial figure on just how much money this week will bring in, Embassy Suites general manager Lars Schrader said, but an increase is all but guaranteed.

“For sure,” he said. “We’ve got nothing available tonight and we’re pretty good every night. Thankfully we’ve been pretty busy over the past couple months, but compared to last year, (this week) is a pretty big difference.”

Tyler Palmateer covers high school sports for Main Street Nashville. A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Palmateer has covered high school and college sports for nearly a decade. Find him on Twitter @tpalmateer83.

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