Fresh off its 25th anniversary, the Wheeling Super Six is back for more — four more years, that is.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission on Wednesday announced that the state high school football championships will return to Wheeling Island Stadium for the 2020-23 seasons. Island Stadium has been the home of the Super Six since it moved from Charleston in 1994.
Bluefield was the only other city to put in a bid to host the title games, which this year are set for Dec. 4-5.
“There was some talk at one point that Charleston may put in a bid,’’ said Bernie Dolan, the SSAC’s executive director, “but it was just Bluefield, and they were pretty active about letting people know they put a bid in.’’
Charleston hasn’t put in an official bid to host the games since 2006. In two of the past four voting cycles, Wheeling’s bid was the only one.
Dolan acknowledged that the voting members of the SSAC’s Board of Appeals are obviously comfortable with Wheeling’s past performance, and that another city is really going to have to go above and beyond to wrest the games from the Ohio County town.
“Soccer is in Beckley and has been for a number of years,’’ Dolan said. “Wrestling has been in Huntington for a number of years. I think if you’re going to take it from a site, then you really can’t just match what they do, because they’re a done commodity and you know what they’re doing. I don’t question that Bluefield could do it. If you can host the Bluefield-Graham [Virginia] game, you can host any game.
“I think [Bluefield] really took a hard look at Wheeling and emulated a lot of things that they do, so they did match what they could do. I think [Bluefield’s bid] was similar. But for someone to take something that’s been established, you really have to do something above and over. I certainly think Bluefield had the financial commitment from its community to do what they said they were going to do.’’
Dolan did say that in Bluefield’s bid, all games would have been played at 10,000-seat Mitchell Stadium, which rests in Bluefield on the Virginia-West Virginia border. Earlier speculation that some of the games could also be played at Princeton’s Hunnicutt Stadium were dashed because it seats only about 6,500, which is under the Super Six requirement of 10,000 seats.
Wheeling, though, has always been a step ahead of other potential Super Six suitors for its innovative ways of adding to the experience for visiting teams and fans. Whether it be gifts of athletic gear and weight training for players, $1,000 scholarships for select athletes, the addition of artificial turf (in 2004) or a JumboTron video board, that town’s Super Six committee was always looking to improve its bid instead of just maintaining.
Last year, with the help of a local health organization, at all three games it had a helicopter land in the parking lot behind the scoreboard to show that emergency medical services were also available if necessary.
This year’s addition to Wheeling’s bid was the prospect of a large sports complex being built in the Highlands, a shopping area just outside the city limits. According to Wheeling Super Six co-chairman Dwaine Rodgers, the facility includes a large indoor practice area that will be available for participating Super Six teams. It is expected to be ready by December.
“Even though we’ve always provided practice facilities,’’ Rodgers said, “this is an indoor practice facility, and we’ve already secured it for that weekend. It’s really going to be something — basketball courts, batting cages, it’s pretty big-sized.
“It’s another opportunity to stay at the Highlands, which is an awesome place. Teams could walk to the facility and go back to their hotel and stay off the bus.’’
All Super Six participating teams are housed in West Virginia hotels, but not all will stay at the Highlands.