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KHSAA state football finals moving from Western Kentucky University to UK’s Kroger Field

By Keith Taylor
KyForward Senior Sports Writer

Sack one up for University of Kentucky.

The Kentucky High School Athletics Association moved the state football finals from Western Kentucky University’s Houchens-L.T. Smith Stadium to newly-named Kroger Field during its board of control meeting Wednesday.

The KHSAA state football finals will be played at Kroger Field for the next two seasons. The event has been hosted by Western Kentucky University for the past eight years (Keith Taylor Photo)

All six classes will have their championship games in Lexington for the first time since 1976 when the event was held at Commonwealth Stadium. The state finals are set for the first weekend in December.

“We are thrilled to be hosting the best weekend of Kentucky high school football at Kroger Field,” UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said. “We are committed to the growth of the game of football in the Commonwealth and excited to bring thousands of young athletes and fans to our campus and the city of Lexington through this event. Kroger Field will make an excellent home for the Kentucky state football finals.”

A renovated turf at UK and scheduling conflicts at Western Kentucky paved the way for Kentucky to host the state finals for the next two years. Kentucky installed a synthetic turf during its renovation two years ago, giving the school a chance to host the state’s biggest football showcase for the first time in more than four decades.

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“We are excited about the opportunity to move our football championships to Kroger Field and expand our outstanding partnership with the University of Kentucky,” KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said. “We are eternally grateful for the efforts of other hosts in past years, but look forward to the chance to potentially grow this event and be able to maintain our pre-determined schedule that we finalize in the coming weeks.”

Western Kentucky athletics director Todd Steward told the Bowling Green Daily News he wasn’t surprised by the change in venue. The Hilltoppers have been host to the yearly event since 2009, but the school’s own success on the gridiron presented some issues from a scheduling standpoint.

“It’s certainly been an honor to host it for eight consecutive years,” Stewart told the paper. “It’s something that has worked well and I commend our staff here for doing a phenomenal job of the efforts and time that go into successfully managing six championship football games. The last two years, the fact that we’ve hosted the Conference USA championship game added a lot of challenges for the KHSAA and the schools involved. I understand that.”

Lexington hosted the state finals at historic Stoll Field from 1959-66 and again from 1968-72.

* In addition to the state football and Boys Sweet Sixteen, the girls’ Sweet Sixteen will be played in Lexington for two years from 2019-20. The event will be played at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena for the third straight year next season before moving to Rupp Arena.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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