As the owner of the Archery Shooters Association, Mike Tyrell has to juggle a lot of details to bring his tour to numerous cities. But not many of those events have been as easy to coordinate as this year’s ASA Classic at St. Bernard.
And there’s one big reason why.
“The parks and recreation department here in Cullman is better than anybody I’ve ever dealt with in terms of their ability to bring resources to the table,” said Tyrell, while walking around the grounds on Thursday. “These guys are just unbelievable. We’re very happy.”
John Hunt, the city’s director of parks, was on site for the opening day of the Classic, which will continue until Sunday. He was able to enjoy the fruits of his department’s labor as nearly 500 archers and spectators — only one-third of the crowd expected when pro classes compete today and Saturday — descended upon the St. Bernard campus on Thursday.
“It makes us feel extremely proud,” Hunt said. “We’ve got a staff that is second to none, proven fact. I just cannot say enough about our guys and their desire to make everything perfect. The city should be proud of that.”
Finding a community that has the ability to execute plans was just one of four components Tyrell felt was mandatory to having a successful event. The other three involved:
Locating a suitable facility: With over 900 acres of land to work with, St. Bernard has been able to accommodate all of the ASA’s needs. Even with a large crowd, there’s adequate parking, a gymnasium for the vendors, an archer’s village and a practice range. And that doesn’t even include the woods, which were transformed with the addition of 14 ranges and over 200 lanes.
Having a community large enough to support the tournament: With Cullman’s consistent dedication to development, the city shouldn’t have any problem welcoming in an extra 2,000 people over a four-day span. Restaurants and hotels will undoubtedly be crowded during that time, but that’s a good problem to have, considering the $2-4 million economical impact Hunt said this tournament will have on the community.
“As far as the city of Cullman is concerned, if you have an event that meets the size of the city, then everybody wins,” Tyrell said. “It’s a benefit for everybody.”
Choosing a location convenient enough for participants to get to: Considering Cullman is right off Interstate 65, this was a no-brainer for Tyrell. Having two major airports (Birmingham and Huntsville) within an hour didn’t hurt, either.
If you really want to know how easy it is to get to Cullman, just ask Bill Watson, who came all the way from Logan, Austraulia, to compete. That’s a long way to travel just for a sport, but Watson said it’s worth it for archery.
“It’s a very friendly sport,” he said. “It’s a good family atmosphere and good for any ages. It’s a very enjoyable sport that you can travel the world doing. That’s what it’s all about.”
The passion Watson has for archery is an aspect Tyrell has noticed in pretty much all of the competitors he encounters. Whether it’s 6-year-old kids or 75-year-old grandparents, it’s easy for the ASA owner to see just how much participants of all ages love their sport.
“People used to bring their picture albums, but now they bring their phones,” Tyrell said. “They’ll stand there for hours looking at all the deer they shot and the animals they harvested and the fun they had with their families. It becomes sort of a family event or a community event. They relish the idea of being able to do this kind of stuff.”
The Classic marks the close of the ASA season. Although Tyrell is sad to see the tour end, he said “it’s been a really great year.”
“When you end it on a facility like this with the people and the support we’re getting from Cullman, it just makes your whole year come full circle,” he said. “It feels good and feels right. We just hope we have a successful weekend of weather, and we’ve knocked this thing out of the ballpark.”
‰ Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.