By Nathan Ham
Roachel Laney, who served as Director of Athletics at Appalachian State for 14 years, will be the first Director of the Boone Area Sports Commission.
Laney was a member of the athletics staff at Appalachian for 29 years and has experience serving on organizing committees for both the Southern Conference and the NCAA.
Outside of his time with the Mountaineers, Laney also worked with the Carolina Panthers as the Director of Gameday Quality Control for the last nine seasons. In addition to this, Laney is an avid volunteer and coach with the Watauga County Special Olympics and has been a referee and umpire for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
“I am excited to get started and look forward to working with the Boone Area Sports Commission board and other community partners as we work to put our best foot forward in the sports tourism arena,” Laney said. “Boone and the High Country have so many built-in advantages that make our area an attractive destination for participants of all ages. As we get this operation moving, it’s important to involve as many stakeholders as possible so we can work with strong local support behind us as we reach out to potential participants and organizers. I look forward to facilitating these conversations and working to establish a brand that can help bring more visitors to our community.”
David Jackson, the President/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce said the conversations for adding this sports commission started about two years ago.
“A number of community partners came together to find out how the community could be a player in the pipeline of sports events, to either start here or recruit here,” said Jackson. “We could bring people here to our area instead of our teams having to travel across the region.”
The Boone Area Sports Commission will be set up as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit wing of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. Jackson as well as Wright Tilley, the Director of the Watauga County TDA will oversee the position.
“We are thrilled that we were able to hire Roachel for this sports tourism position,” said Tilley. “His experience, reputation and knowledge will give tremendous credibility to our inaugural efforts to grow sports tourism in Boone and Watauga County. Roachel is well connected locally, regionally and nationally. He knows the knows the Boone brand and our local assets, which will allow him to easily convey the benefits of bringing a tournament to the Boone area.”
The hope is that the commission will be able to bring in a wide variety of events to join some of the other popular events around Boone, such as the Blood, Sweat and Gears cycling race, Boone Roundball Classic AAU basketball tournament and numerous soccer tournaments hosted by the High Country Soccer Association.
“Because of this area being a resort destination, we are in an area that is conducive to outdoor recreation for all ages. We found that with tennis and golf and certainly youth sports, there is something to be said for having those events locally, especially in the summertime,” said Jackson. “The aim of this organization is to not take over any event, we would like to be able to supplement those events with more volunteer help or more marketing help.”
Jackson feels like Laney’s wide range of experience with different areas of sports will be a big asset to being able to bring sporting events, tournaments and championships to Boone.
“For the most part we want to make sure our staff is in the right circles around the state and region and if there is a traveling tournament that matches up with the right time of year and facilities we have, we want to show organizers what this area has to offer,” he said. “Roachel understands the business side of sports and has those connections.”
The Boone Area Sports Commission will also be available to help Appalachian State coordinate potential events, whether it be a basketball tournament in the early fall, the SoCon Wrestling Championships that they will be hosting later this year or any future Sun Belt Championships that App State might get the chance to host.