For almost a quarter century, two inner-city youth sports leagues have taken to the field in a yearly football and food extravaganza for bragging rights, unity and friendly competition. The 2014 Blue Wahoos Soul Bowl presented by Levin Papantonio Law Firm is returning for the third year to the Bayfront Stadium at Pensacola’s Vince J. Whibbs Community Maritime Park, in partnership with the City of Pensacola.
Beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, young athletes from the East Pensacola Tigers, the A&G Rattlers, and the Brewton (Alabama) Tigers will compete in football, cheerleading and team spirit. The event is a fundraiser for the two inner-city squads but also focuses on ending violence and teaching young people the value of hard work and staying in school.
The Soul Bowl started over twenty years ago as a friendly neighborhood rivalry, but has grown into a full day of football, soul food, music and entertainment. Three years ago, organizer Lumon May and Quint Studer got together to move the event to the Bayfront Stadium to provide the young athletes an opportunity to compete at a world-class venue like the stadium.
In addition to the two Pensacola-based squads, which will compete in age groups ranging from 5 years to 14 years, the Brewton, Alabama Tigers will be joining the fray this year as well. To ensure each age group gets to play at the stadium, every year an additional team is invited to join the Soul Bowl. Past football teams have included squads from Pace (2012) and Navarre (2013).
May said that the event was the highlight of the year for many of the young athletes who play at the waterfront park.
“This is such a unique event that brings thousands of people to downtown Pensacola,” said May, who is one of the event organizers. “To see the excitement on the faces of these young men and women is a real treat. Even more important is the way we can use this great event as an incentive for our athletes to focus on their schoolwork, make good choices, and stay out of trouble,” said May.
In fact, the Southern Youth Sports Association has a “Four B’s” program for all of their athletes, which refers to the Bible, the Book, the Ball, and the Balance. The program is used to encourage children to develop spiritually, work hard in school, be disciplined in their sport, and work to strike a balance in their lives between those three other elements.
Quint Studer, owner of the Blue Wahoos, who are sponsoring the event, said the Soul Bowl is part of supporting the importance of sports and education.
“The coaches who volunteer their time to help these football players and cheerleaders have such a positive impact on these young people and on our community as a whole,” said Studer.
“Not only do these programs teach discipline and hard work through athletics, they also provide after-school activities, tutoring, mentorship and are great role models for the young men and women of our community. We are happy to support them in this worthy cause,” Studer continued.
For the Soul Bowl, the home field of the Blue Wahoos baseball team is reconfigured and repainted to fit a 100-yard football field, complete with goalposts and end zones. Young athletes take the field from the stadium tunnels to cheers of friends and family and the sounds of their team music.
In addition, the outside of the stadium is lined with soul food vendors and community organizations, including the City of Pensacola’s Public Safety Day. Joining the Soul Bowl lineup for the second year in a row, public safety day is a half-day demonstration of the equipment, personnel, tools and vehicles of several agencies across the region.
Gates open Saturday at 7 a.m., and the first game begins at 8 a.m.. Tickets are $6 in advance, and $8 at the door for fans ages six years and up. The Blue Wahoos box office is open for ticket sales on Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Public Safety Day will kickoff at 10 a.m.
The Blue Wahoos Soul Bowl is presented by the LevinPapantonio Law Firm. Premier Sponsors include Councilman Brian Spencer; Visit Pensacola, Inc; Edward Jones – John Peacock Financial Advisors; Cox Communications; Escambia County Sheriff’s Office; and Fred and Tia Robbins.
Friends of the Soul Bowl include McDonalds; Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital; Jones Soda Co.; Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond and Stackhouse; Jim & Shirley Cronley; The Appleyard Agency; Hiles-McLeod Insurance; Pensacola Professional Firefighters; and Pensacola Energy.
The event is held in partnership with the City of Pensacola Neighborhood Services.