CHURCH HILL — Volunteer High School cross country coach Jim Ailshie’s request to begin hosting meets on a vacant floodplain in the Phipps Bend Industrial Park was declined in anticipation of a new truck driving school locating in the park this spring.
Ailshie appeared before the Phipps Bend Joint Venture Committee on Feb. 17, when he made the case for allowing Volunteer to host regional cross country meets at Phipps Bend again, as it did twice in 2016.
Jerry Young, president of Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), didn’t attend the meeting, but he submitted a report stating that the long-awaited trucking school should be opening soon on the Phipps Bend TCAT campus.
The area beside the Phipps Bend TCAT that was used for the 2016 cross country meet start/finish lines, runner staging, parking and spectators is where the proposed truck driving school will be located.
“The truck driving program was put on hold before the pandemic in order for the college to locate a trucking company to partner with,” Young stated in his report. “Within the last couple of months, I’ve been in contact with a company that is extremely interested in partnering to start the program at the Hawkins County campus at Phipps Bend, and I should have more information in coming months.”
Ailshie told the Times News on Friday he’s not giving up on the Phipps Bend venue.
Once the trucking school is established and it’s clear what space it will occupy, Ailshie said he hopes to be able to find a nearby vacant area and coexist with the trucking school.
“Tennessee College of Applied Technology is in the education business, just like we are,” Ailshie said. “We both have the best interest of students at heart and have worked well together since our running course ribbon- cutting ceremony in 2016. We expect this complementary relationship to continue well into the future.
“Although Chairman (Larry) Elkins unveiled brand new plans today for a TCAT trucking school, we have proven we can coexist with the industrial park’s established businesses.”
Ailshie added, “Cooper Standard got on board with this effort more than four years ago, investing in these young athletes. And in our most recent talks they have agreed to increase their financial commitment, ensuring the safety and well-being of young and old runners alike.”
Although it was located on wetlands that can’t be developed, the Phipps Bend course is scenic and flat, has parking and is easily accessible, Ailshie noted.
The meets held at Phipps Bend during the 2016 season were the Flying Falcons Cross Country Classic, which included middle and high school runners, and the Inter-Mountain Athletic Conference championship.