High school football fans from across the state will descend on Auburn this week for the AHSAA Super 7 football championships.
Super 7 will feature seven state championship games, as well as Tiger Walks for each of the participating teams.
"We want to encourage people to come to the games," said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. "You get to see the best high school football players in the state participate. They are competing for a state championship. It is a big event. You’ll see future members of the Auburn University football team that will be participating. It’s very easy for the public to be involved and come to the ball games."
The 7A state championship game will pit Central-Phenix City against Thompson at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. A Tiger Walk for Central will take place at 4:45 p.m., while Thompson's will start at 5:15 p.m.
The 6A state championship game will be held at 7 p.m. Friday between Saraland and Pinson Valley. Tiger Walks will be held at 4:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. for Pinson Valley and Saraland, respectively.
The 5A state championship game will feature Vigor facing off against Central-Clay County. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday, with Tiger Walks being held for Vigor at 4:45 p.m. and Central-Clay at 5:15 p.m.
The 4A championship game will start the action Friday at 11 a.m. It will feature a battle between Deshler and UMS-Wright. Tiger Walks will start at 8:30 a.m. for UMS-Wright and 9:15 a.m. for Deshler.
Flomaton and Piedmont will square off in the 3A state championship Thursday at 11 a.m. The Tiger Walk times are same as Friday's, with Piedmont's starting at 8:30 a.m.
Luverne and Fyffe will vie for the 2A state championship at 3 p.m. Friday. Tiger Walks will begin at 12:45 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. for Fyffe and Luverne, respectively.
The 1A championship game will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday between Linden and Mars Hill Bible. Tiger Walks will start at 12:45 p.m. for Linden and 1:15 p.m. for Mars Hill Bible.
The Unified championship game will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday between Baldwin County and Vestavia Hills. A combined Tiger Walk will take place at 2:30 p.m.
Daily tickets will cost $15 at the gate, and the university's clear bag policy will be in effect. To learn more about that policy, go to www.auburntigers.com/clearbag.
Aside from the action, visiting fans, estimated to be upwards of 60,000 people, can also take in the Auburn University campus, area restaurants and numerous shopping opportunities throughout the area.
"The reality is it is a great jolt in our economy for a year that we don’t host the Iron Bowl," said Anders. "In the early stages of the Christmas shopping season, to have that many people from across our state to descend on our community is all positive.
"We’re just very grateful for Auburn University for allowing us to bring these games onto their campus while they’re trying to conduct the final week of their fall semester."
The total economic impact in the Auburn-Opelika area could be upwards of $3 million, said John Wild, director of the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau. He added that hotel occupancy in 2016 increased to nearly 80 percent from the average of 51 percent and brought in about $500,000 in 2016.
Wild said the impact on Auburn of hosting the Super 7 every other year is huge, even when a local team isn't vying for a championship.
"It’s pride when you have a local team in it, but it’s really our pride to show off the area, all the athletics department and everybody helping to showcase our area and, of course, Jordan-Hare Stadium," Wild said. "The secret to it is hosting it on both college campuses. You just can’t get any better."
Super 7 began in 2009 when the University of Alabama and Auburn University agreed to host the state championship games at Bryant-Denny Stadium and Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Anders was heavily involved with the process and getting the two schools involved.
"In the best-case scenario, the event would be shared by both of the primary schools with the primary stadiums in the state of Alabama," he said. "When we reached out to the folks in Tuscaloosa it was my thought, our thought eventually, that hosting this on the heels of the Iron Bowl each and every year would be difficult for the school that hosts the Iron Bowl. And so we came up with the concept that whoever hosts the Iron Bowl the other school will host the Super 7, and it would rotate on that basis."
The initial contract for the Super 7 is done in 2020, said Wild, who added that discussions with the AHSAA have already begun in an effort to continue the current arrangement.