ROCK HILL — Rock Hill has solidly established itself as a destination for sporting events. Now, it seems, the city could branch out as a destination for unusual sporting events.
In addition to attracting tournaments in traditional sports such as softball, tennis, soccer, lacrosse and track, the city also has a world-class cycling center and hosts the world championship in disc golf. And now it can add quidditch to the list.
Rock Hill beat out Tuscaloosa, Ala., to earn the privilege of playing host to the regional championship for the sport of quidditch. The games will be played at the Manchester Meadows complex in February.
Never heard of quidditch? Then youre obviously not a fan of the Harry Potter phenomenon.
Harry Potter came to life in an enormously popular series of childrens books, which spawned an equally popular string of movies. Quidditch is the game played by students at the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on brooms that fly with balls that can hover in the air.
Quidditch also is played by real-life college students, who have adapted the game to well-grounded reality. They do use brooms, but they cant fly on them. Quidditch has evolved from a casual pastime to a full-fledged organized sport, with tournaments, regional championships and even a World Cup. And Rock Hill now will play a significant role in the championship series.
Last week, the International Quidditch Association selected the city as site of the Southern regional championships that could attract as many as 25 co-ed college teams. Among those vying for the regional title will be the quidditch team at Winthrop University, which has won six of its eight games this year. One of the key reasons Rock Hill was chosen for the championships was that Quidditch Association members were bowled over by Manchester Meadows. Association member Jennifer Tran called the complex exactly where I would expect a tournament of this kind of caliber to take place, adding that it absolutely wowed us. But another reasons, perhaps even more significant, was the vigorous courting of the quidditch people by local officials. 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 convince the association to hold the tournament here.
Some cities might have scoffed at wooing a tournament for a sport invented for a childrens book series. But Rock Hill is likely to have the last laugh. The tournament is likely to attract dozens of teams with 25 players each including chasers, beaters, keepers and seekers. Cole also expects to see high fan turnout and lots of spectators who are curious about the game they have seen played only in the movies.
And the popularity and sophistication of quidditch is likely to grow. Dont forget that basketball had humble origins as a kids game played with a soccer ball and a peach basket.
So could Rock Hill someday be famous as one of the places quidditch really began to take off before becoming an official Olympic sport? Dont bet against it.