Tuscaloosa, Ala., may claim the No. 1 college football team in the nation, but when it comes to quidditch, Rock Hill rules.
The International Quidditch Association selected Rock Hill over Tuscaloosa for the February Southern region championships which could draw as many as 25 co-ed college teams to the city.
Among those vying for the regional title will be the quidditch team at Winthrop University.
Auvis Cole, sports marketer for the Rock Hill-York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the bureau and the citys Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department have been working for about a year to bring the tournament here.
Cole said he thinks a September site visit by the association to Manchester Meadows sealed the deal for the city.
Jennifer Tran of the quidditch association said the Manchester Meadows complex absolutely wowed us.
Coming from a player standpoint, the facility is exactly where I would expect a tournament of this kind of caliber to take place, Tran said in an email. Also, Rock Hill has given us nonstop support, something we look for in a host.
Cole said each team typically brings about 25 members. The co-ed sport features seven-member teams who play the game with brooms between their legs. It draws elements from rugby, dodge ball and tag.
Its really three different games at the same time, all with the same goal, said Zoe Walsh, a chaser on the Winthrop team.
Walsh said she is excited to be playing in the regional, hopefully in front of fellow students. This will be the second time Winthrop has competed in the Southern region championships. The team has won six of the eight games it has played this year.
Cole is expecting a high fan turnout for the tournament based on the curiosity surrounding the game. In addition to chasers who try to get the ball and score, there are beaters who throw balls at the chasers and a keeper who defends the goal. There is also a seeker on each team who tries to catch the snitch who is the only participant not on a broom.
Games usually last between 40 and 45 minutes.
The game is a real-life version of the game portrayed in the Harry Potter movies.
Cole said the tournament will use five of the fields at Manchester Meadows for competition. The remainder of the site will be used for game-related activities.
Cole did not have an estimated economic impact for the tournament, but York County Manager Bill Shanahan estimated that as many as 3,000 people could come for the tournament.
The 2014 quidditch world championships will be played in April at North Myrtle Beach. Cole said he is looking into how the two tournaments can work together to promote each other. Last year, Winthrop competed in the world championships but did not win a game.
The top seven teams from the Southern regional are guaranteed a spot in the world championship.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066