Tailgating sport goes pro at Convention Center

Tailgating sport goes pro at Convention Center

📅July 9th, 2015, 14:37

This week, the Knoxville Convention Center staff learned that cornhole is not just a way to pass the time at a tailgate party; it’s a competitive sport. During the American Cornhole Organization (ACO) World Championships in Knoxville, our team had the opportunity to participate in an open competition and test our tossing skills against some of the best players in the country. We had a lot of fun, but I don’t think we’re ready for the big leagues yet.

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Our Exhibit Hall ready for competitors.

To kick-start the ACO World Championships in Knoxville, the organization created an event called the World Slyder Cup. This new challenge on July 8 gave local businesses, cornhole pros and the Convention Center’s cornhole team the chance to play and learn more about the sport of cornhole.

The Knoxville Convention Center team – Tom Conaway, Brian Cox, Lee Dissel, Wes Geren and Billy Smith – tossed as a five-person team named “Rocky Stop.” The Slyder Cup teams competed for a total of $3,000 in prize money. To move to the next round, teams had to win two out of three games.  A match consisted of two doubles games and one singles game. While we did not win the grand prize, our team had a lot of fun!

After playing a round of two doubles and one singles game, Tom Conaway, Brian Cox, Billy Smith, Lee Dissel, and Wes Geren pose for a team photo.

After playing a round of two doubles and one singles game, Tom Conaway, Brian Cox, Billy Smith, Lee Dissel, and Wes Geren pose for a team photo.

Professional cornhole is serious business, and like any sport, it has regulations and precise measurements. One difference between backyard fun and competitive playing is the distance between the boards – 27 feet.

The perfect toss also takes technique, as ACO President Frank Geers explained to us. The most popular way to toss a cornhole bag is to place four fingers on the bottom of the bag with the thumb on top. Draw your arm directly back behind your leg and release the bag underhand so it remains parallel to the ground with a slight spin.

Members of BlackJack Cornhole, Tennessee’s professional team from Bristol, said their interest in the sport started during tailgates at University of Tennessee football games, but after a few years of being pros, the players won’t return to outdoor competitions.

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The “Rocky Stop” team in action.

“With professional competitions and indoor courts, there is no wind or other complicating factors,” said Cliff Canter, BlackJack Cornhole team member.

Team member Troy Houser added, “We’ve been spoiled by professional play, but of course, we’ll still play cornhole at UT tailgates.”

On Thursday, July 9, the competitive play of the ACO World Championships of Cornhole X begins with professional players from around the country. This year 338 competitors qualified for the event, but only one person will be crowned the king or queen of cornhole.

We are excited to introduce these professional competitors to Knoxville. The ACO selected Knoxville because of its close and accessible downtown area and central location to major cities in the Eastern United States.

“Not only is Knoxville a central location, but also the Knoxville Convention Center is a great facility with great beauty surrounding it,” Geers said. “In a large city, I might not see anyone from our tournament while out and about. In Knoxville, I can walk to Market Square at any given time and see many of our competitors out enjoying the city.”

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Who will be the King or Queen of Cornhole?

Competition will take place through Saturday, July 11, with the finals on Saturday evening, when the title of king or queen of cornhole will be earned. Mention Visit Knoxville or KCC and be admitted free for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. finals.

We are especially delighted to have ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcasting on-site Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. This a great opportunity to showcase our city and venue to a national audience.

We have learned a lot about cornhole this week at the Knoxville Convention Center. Our team now has a competitive edge for the fall tailgate season, and we hope that the ACO will visit our city again in the future.