The region that is already home to the world's fastest half mile will soon become home to a sport that is known as the fastest sport on two feet.
Lacrosse will make its debut in the area during the spring with the season starting in March and going to the end of May. The league is open to kids, ages 7-13, and teams will be fielded in both Johnson City and Kingsport. It is being conducted by the Northeast Tennessee Sports Association (NTSA).
The sport is the fastest growing sport in the nation right now and with all the talks of concussions in football, lacrosse is considered a safer alternative to other brain-rattling sports.
"There are a lot of parents that are concerned about the safety of football," said Mark Bodo, board vice president of NTSA and a parent himself. "But the kids still want to be involved in a sport that is still a little bit aggressive and rough. What's great about lacrosse is that it provides some of that aggression, it's not as non-contact as soccer and then, at this age, it isn't as dangerous as football"
Checking will not be allowed in this league as they will play with the 11-under rules, so some of the physicality will be taken out and kids can still enjoy the speed of the sport.
Those aspects of the sport have helped it gain popularity with youth leagues in Knoxville, Roanoke and Asheville. That popularity has finally spawned a Tri-Cities league. Local colleges are also picking up the sport with teams at Tusculum, UVA-Wise and Lees-McRae.
"Adding it to the area makes a center point that can create opportunities for kids to play, even possibly at a higher level," Bodo said.
Bodo is a part of the Northeast Tennessee Sports Association which was formed two years ago as a non-profit organization. The goal of the group of volunteers is to bring no cost and low cost sports to the youth and adults of the Tri-Cities.
They are hoping to build an indoor facility, somewhere down the road, to provide sports that aren't normally played around this area, like hockey.
"In the winter time, especially in this area, we are kind of limited to just basketball," Bodo said. "So having an indoor facility that might be able to provide an ice rink in the winter time and some indoor soccer or other sports. But we are just starting with baby steps right now."
As a new non-profit to the community, the NTSA is in need of donations from the area it is trying to help. It isn't about helping them though, it's about helping the kids that wouldn't be able to play the sports otherwise.
"The fundraising is really important for us," Bodo said. "Because it's part of our mission, which is to keep sports low cost or no cost for the kids. Because we know that money can be prohibitive of youth participating in athletics. That is why we kind of started as an organization, because we want to provide as many opportunities for kids as possible for them to participate in athletics."
NTSA needs the funds in order to provide the primary equipment like helmets, shoulder pads, gloves and sticks for the kids, so there would be minimal cost to the participant. Because it is a non-profit group, all donations can be used as tax deductions.
For more information on the the lacrosse league and other sports provided by NTSA, visit their website at ntsasports.org.