Bridges promotes growth of track and field activities

Rome High track coach Nick Bridges (standing) details plans to beef up the entire track and field program across Rome and Floyd County for members of the Office of Tourism Board of Directors in Rome on Wednesday. / Doug Walker

A new-to-Rome trolley is expected to roll into Rome and Floyd County in time for rentals during the Spring and Summer wedding season.

Office of Tourism Board of Directors approved the purchase of the used trolley on Wednesday from a business in Baltimore at the cost of $131,900. Tourism Director Lisa Smith said she is working with government leaders to finalize the budget package to make the purchase.

“It checked out beautifully,” Smith said of a visit to Baltimore by mechanics from the Public Works Garage of the city of Rome to inspect the larger, newer trolley which only has 12,000 miles on it. Someone has already put down a deposit on the city’s current older trolley and was coming in this weekend to finalize the purchase, she said.

Rome Sports Commission Director Ann Hortman reported the International Tennis Federation Clock Tower Classic Wheelchair Tennis Tournament scheduled for March 13-17 already has 78 competitors registered from at least 22 countries. The tournament is for professional-level para-athletes and includes three divisions — men, women, and quad.

Hortman said nine of the top ten ranked competitors in each of the categories will be coming to Rome for the competition. On March 14, the wheelchair-bound athletes will conduct a workshop for local youngsters who are disabled in an attempt to spur interest in the sport.

This is the second year for the tournament in Rome and registration is significantly up from the inaugural event in 2018 which won a United States Tennis Association Award.

Nick Bridges, a track coach at Rome High, told tourism leaders he is working to expand interest in track and field across all age groups in Rome and Floyd County. As a result, the program at Rome Middle and Rome High has grown to include more than 170 youngsters this year.

Like the ITF tennis tournament, year two of the resurrected Rome Relays scheduled for March 16 and will feature representatives from 20 different teams later this spring — more than double the number of participants a year ago. Bridges is working with USA Track and Field to bring regional and national level competition to Barron Stadium. He said USA Track and Field has asked the community to bid on the 2020 National Junior Olympics which could bring more than 5,000 athletes to the community.

Tourism leaders also agreed to schedule the second Spirit of the Sun event for June 1 as a signature event for the community. The panel hopes to expand on the paddleboard races, canoe and kayak races that highlighted the inaugural event last year.