WISE — Gridiron fans planning to attend Saturday’s Region D Division 1 and 2 football championships at Virginia-Wise should plan to arrive earlier than they have in the past.
They’ll need to arrive early enough to catch a shuttle bus.
Because of ongoing construction of the new convocation center on the campus of Virginia-Wise, parking at Carl Smith Stadium will be limited to designated school buses, handicap vehicles and special passes issued by Region D.
Otherwise, fans attending the game will be required to park either at J.J. Kelly High School or at the Greear Gymnasium parking lots on the other side of the university’s campus.
Beginning at 10:30 a.m., continuous free shuttle service will be provided between the stadium and the two designated parking areas and will run until the stadium is cleared after the second game. People will also be allowed to park at other on-campus parking locations and walk to the back gate of the stadium, if they so choose.
The Region D Division 1 title game, set for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff, will pit top-seeded Clintwood (9-2) against Lonesome Pine District rival J.I. Burton (9-2).
The Region D Division 2 championship game, with an approximate start time of 4:15 p.m., will feature a rematch between Clinch Mountain District powerhouses Gate City (10-1) and Lebanon (7-4).
This marks the fourth consecutive year the Region D championships have been played at Carl Smith Stadium. The doubleheader event, which emulates the VHSL state championship format, is the result of a collective effort spearheaded by Powell Valley coach Phil Robbins.
In addition to facilities assistance from the Virginia-Wise athletic department, the regional title games also receive financial support from Alpha Natural Resources with additional contributions from Payless Supermarkets, Huddle House and Pepsi-Cola of Norton.
While Region D officials regret any potential inconvenience to fans, they noted that the doubleheader format has proven extremely popular with players.
“People just need to be patient and leave a little early for the games this year,” said J.I. Burton coach Jimbo Adams. “This is a temporary setback, but in terms of the atmosphere, the playing facilities and the fairness to all squads — this is still a really sweet deal.”
Admission is $7 and gates open at 10:30 a.m.