By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Pittsburg, more precisely the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, plans to bid for the NCAA Division II football championship, despite some apparently strong competition from just up the road.
On Monday it was noted in a Kansas City Star story that Kansas City, Kan., the MIAA and Sporting Kansas City planned to bid for the title game.
On Tuesday, B.J. Harris, director of the Crawford Country Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Pittsburg would do the same.
“We’re planning on putting together a bid proposal,” Harris said. “We think that if the NCAA wants to commit to DII and go the whole ‘I chose D2,’ route, we have the right things to offer.”
A declaration of intent is due to the NCAA by Aug. 9 and bids must be filed by Sept. 16. A site will be chosen in December.
Pittsburg placed bids in 2003 and 2008, but both times the NCAA chose to keep the game in Florence, Ala., where it has been played since 1986 in the University of North Alabama’s Braly Municipal Stadium.
This time around, Kansas City is poised to add competition for Pittsburg, working with the MIAA and Sporting Kansas City on a package that would place the game in 19,000-seat Sporting Park.
“We want to bring it to our backyard, especially with the great interest in Division II football and the MIAA,” MIAA commissioner Bob Boerigter told the St. Joseph New-Press’ Cody Thorn. “First of all, we will be playing in a state-of-the-art facility ... and in recent years the MIAA teams that have played in the championship game have played in larger crowds all year long than in the championship game. We feel we can bring a number of people to an exciting event.”
But facilities and crowds are the two biggest areas that Harris says Pittsburg has going for it.
Carnie Smith Stadium is arguably one of the nicest in Division II and officially seats 8,343, although the Gorillas averaged 10,055 fans in the 2012 season and were just 90 fans shy of the 12,000 mark on Oct. 20.
“If it wasn’t for Carnie Smith Stadium, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Harris said. “We have the best football facility in Division II. We have the right seating capacity. Our facility offers the opportunity to be full and look good on TV with all the seats filled.
“There is a lot of local passion for Division II football here. People love it and there is a strong knowledge-base with football. The stadium is built for this type of game and people would show up, regardless of who is playing.”
The problem Pittsburg has, Harris admits, is what the city lacks, most notable attractions and hotel rooms.
In fact, Harris said, and Joplin Sports Authority director Craig Hull confirmed, that a Pittsburg bid would become a collaborative effort with Joplin in terms of hotel rooms.
“We hope Pittsburg places a bid and if they do we will be happy to do anything to support them,” Hull said.
Sporting Park, the prospective host of a Kansas City-based bid, is surrounded by hotels, restaurants, shopping and a newly-built casino, overlooking turn 2 of Kansas Speedway.
“It’s a David-and-Goliath situation as far as bidding, with (Kansas City’s) experience with the NCAA and hosting great events. But I think we have a lot to offer as well. Our focus is on the game,” Harris said. “If the NCAA wants a casino in the background, then maybe (Kansas City) is the way to go. But if you want somewhere where the focus is on the student-athletes, the game, the community ... then a community like ours is where it should be.”