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Wheeling Hyped for Return of Super Six

T.J.’s Sports Garden owner TJ. Radevski was glowing with excitement Thursday, just ahead of the much-anticipated return of the Super Six championships to Wheeling. (Photo by Alan Olson)

WHEELING — With the return of the Super Six championships to Wheeling Island this weekend, students, families and fans aren’t the only ones looking forward to the games.

The influx of visitors to the Friendly City is also a cause for celebration for many restaurateurs, business owners and others excited for a new wave of fresh faces, as well as more who make the return year after year.

T.J.’s Sports Garden owner and namesake T.J. Radevski said the teams, families and fans flocking to his restaurant has been a time-honored tradition, which he’s happy to see the return of. The marquee outside the sports bar, as of Thursday, welcomes the return of a crowd hungry for action — and his food.

“We’re really excited about it — we’ve been looking forward to it for almost two years now,” Radevski said. “It brings a lot of extra people into our town, which is always welcome.”

Radevski said the absence of the championship last year — COVID concerns initially moved the event to Charleston before it was canceled entirely — was something the restaurant missed dearly.

“I’m just looking forward to it — I’ll be there enjoying the game, and I look forward to seeing the supporters come by before and after the game.”

The Alpha Tavern opened in 2020, but the Sparachane family also operates Undo’s, providing free meals to all visiting teams for the championship. Nick Sparachane said he was enthusiastic about Super Six’s return.

“We’ve fed every visiting team for the last 30 years at all locations,” Sparachane said. “… We believe in the Super Six, it’s great for the town, great for the community, and as a result of that, we get people coming back who played in the Super Six 30 years ago.

“It’s a great thing for the city and a great thing for all the restaurants,” he added.

Bernie Dolan has served as the executive director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission since 2016. Prior to that, he was a teacher and administrator with Ohio County Schools and was a member of the Super Six board of directors in Wheeling.

While the 2020 championship ended up not happening, Dolan said that this time around, many COVID concerns are localized to specific schools, rather than being a problem county-wide. This, he said, makes the problems easier to handle and contain without shutting down major events.

“The difference this year is that if there was a problem, it was specific to a school,” he said. “… It was very difficult. We’ve had, knock on wood, very little issues with COVID through the tournament. They were all individual issues, and mid-September it started to look a little fuzzy, but things started to right themselves from there.”

Now, Dolan said, he’s personally very excited to see the return of the championships to his hometown once more.

“Wheeling has always done a great job, and I think they’ve set the bar for most of our other tournaments, on how you bring people in, how you treat the kids, how you try to make it special,” he said. “I can see that in softball, I can see that in soccer, in wrestling. It just begins to permeate. Hopefully all of the other tournaments will begin to catch on, if we put the kids first and try to have a great event for them.”

On a broader scale, Erikka Storch, representing the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, said that with the COVID pandemic last year impacting businesses across the board, it was difficult to assess how much the attempted relocation to Charleston affected businesses specifically. However, the championship’s return was both welcome and highly anticipated.

“It’s always great to have events of this nature in our community,” Storch said. “Our local businesses are able to have an influx of people to shop, get gas, eat, or stay, which is all helpful to our local economy.

“I love Wheeling and Ohio County, so I think there’s no place better, and it’s great that they have an opportunity to experience it through this route, and I hope they’ll return at a future time, because they see we have so many notable things to offer.”

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SUPER SIX TRAFFIC/SAFETY INFORMATION

The Wheeling Police Department wants to inform the public of increased traffic flow on Wheeling Island for the West Virginia Super Six High School Football Championship games today and Saturday.

Games will be played at 7 p.m. today and at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday.

WPD officers will be directing traffic at the conclusion of all three games and will have a heavy presence in and around Wheeling Island Stadium.

Safety & Stadium Rules Reminders:

1. Keep your vehicle locked at all times.

2. Smoking is not permitted inside the stadium. (There will be a designated area outside for smoking.)

3. Portable heaters will not be permitted inside the stadium.

4. No alcohol is permitted in the area.

Parking & Traffic Information

1. Handicapped parking is limited – plan ahead or drop off those with physical needs curbside.

2. Parking in the Casino lot is suggested (not street parking).

3. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is closed to all traffic.

4. The Fort Henry Bridge (the bridge that carries I-70 over the Ohio River) is the only way to access Wheeling Island. Watch for merging traffic when entering the highway. The speed limit currently is 35 miles per hour in this area for ongoing highway construction.

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