The search for a suitable site to host the Class 3A football state championship game kept thousands on the edges of their seats for what seemed like forever over the past couple days.
And the final conclusion was worth the wait.
Since the highest seed in 3A host the title game, but the Colorado High School Activities Association also requires the game site host at least 5,000 fans per its guidelines, Don Breese Stadium, where Palmer Ridge plays its home games, wasn't big enough. After some quick maneuvering, the championship game will now be played at Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium, which boasts a capacity of 46,692.
What was already guaranteed to be a special experience for all of the players and coaches on the No. 5-seeded Erie (10-2) and No. 2 Palmer Ridge (13-0) teams just got a little bit cooler.
"It's been kind of crazy day," Erie head coach Chad Cooper said Monday afternoon. "But it's definitely an exciting thing for the kids to be able to play at a venue like that. We couldn't have played at their place, so it would have been at a neutral site no matter what. This is just a neutral-site game and we're now looking forward to it even more because it's at a major college stadium."
Winners of four straight games and coming off a semifinal victory over No. 8 Longmont, the Tigers already sat through a seven-hour bus trip to Durango for their quarterfinal game. This week, they will leave for Colorado Springs on Friday and stay overnight to better control the variable nature of a championship game day.
Saturday's championship game will begin at 1 p.m.
As for the fans, all spectators attending the 3A championship game must enter the base through the North Gate and will not be permitted to enter before 11 a.m. Parking is free and fans should be prepared with up-to-date license plates, registration and ID when entering the Air Force Academy campus.
The Palmer Ridge booster club raised the entirety of the funds to cover the rental of the Falcon Stadium.
The Erie Tigers last won a state championship in 1997, when they were in 1A. This will be the first title-game appearance for the Tigers since their move to 3A.
Championship weekend schedule
Erie (10-2) at Palmer Ridge (13-0), Falcon Stadium, 1 p.m.
Pine Creek (12-1) at Pueblo South (12-1), Mile High, 11 a.m.
Eaglecrest (13-0) at Pomona (11-2), Mile High, 2:30 p.m.