February's closing of Zinnie's East did more than upset fans of the popular Midtown restaurant's all-you-can-eat crab-leg Sundays. It also left organizers of the annual Wiffestock tournament scrambling for a new location.
The annual Wiffle ball tournament has been held in the Zinnie's East parking lot since its inaugural event in 1996. But this year's tournament has moved to the much more spacious Tiger Lane, near the Liberty Bowl.
On Saturday and Sunday, August 20th and 21st, Wiffle veterans and virgins will compete in a double-elimination tournament benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.
Wifflestock has grown from a simple day of Wiffle among friends 15 years ago to last year's 32-team tournament with close to 500 in attendance, said Johnny Jackson, who's been coordinating the event for the past three years.
"We've been playing for the Ronald McDonald House from the beginning," Jackson said. "We've given more than $70,000 over the years, and more than $17,000 of that was raised last year alone."
While Jackson said he's sorry that Wifflestock has been forced to leave Zinnie's East, he said the seven-acre Tiger Lane has more to offer.
"If it runs the way we're planning, Wifflestock should be so much better and run so much smoother. We'll have more games to play," Jackson said.
"In the past, because we were limited on space, if you played Saturday morning and lost, you didn't play again until Sunday. This year, we've got enough space to play round-robin games. We're prepared to have up to eight games going all at the same time."
For those less interested in the sport, Wifflestock has plenty in the way of additional festivities.
"If we pull it off, this will be the biggest one we've ever had. It'll be on a completely different level. We've got a lot more bands, a bigger stage, and a much larger venue at Tiger Lane."
Additional attractions include live music featuring John Pastor, Jeremy Stanfill, and Brian Sharp, a hot-dog eating contest, a dunk tank, and plenty of food and drink from local eateries. There's also an off-site poker tournament on Friday evening at Café Olé.
Along with the benefits of the new venue come a few kinks to be sorted out before the first pitch is thrown Saturday morning.
"The heat is definitely our biggest concern. In the past, we've always had Zinnie's right next door if people needed to step inside between games and get some air conditioning," Jackson said. "We've tried to get a bunch of tents, coolers, tables, and chairs. Really, it's about making people feel comfortable."
Parking and admission to Wifflestock is free for spectators, There's a $25 entry fee for those competing for their name on a trophy, bragging rights, and the satisfaction of supporting a noble cause.
"I really hope [Tiger Lane] will become the new home of Wifflestock," Jackson said. "It's a great space for a wiffleball tournament. Hopefully, we'll stay there for the next 15 years."