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Why are The Opening Finals in Oregon?

One of the biggest recruiting events of the year is hosted by Nike.

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The 2017 Opening Finals began on Wednesday, and the five-day event is hosting 166 of the nation’s most highly recruiting prospects from across the country.

The Opening Finals’ 7-on-7 championship tournament begins Monday, July 3rd at 12:30 p.m. ET. The finals are scheduled to be televised on the NFL Network.

You can also follow along with all of the action by following @SBNRecruiting on Twitter, and our live blog for The Opening.

Aside from the talent participating on various teams in 7-on-7 tournaments and other competitions, there’s something unique about the event’s venue. Nike’s Opening Finals, which has been around since 2009, is hosted in Beaverton, Oregon, maybe a city you don’t know much about. But there’s a reason this is the site each year.

Nike’s world headquarters hosts The Opening Finals

And that’s precisely why Oregon is the home state each year. Nike was founded by Phil Knight while he was enrolled at the University of Oregon, which lies two hours south of Nike headquarters in Beaverton. The campus was first built in 1990, and featured only eight buildings.

The company had fewer than 2,500 employees in Oregon at the time, mostly spread among seven leased buildings, and $2.2 billion in revenue. Its address: 1 Bowerman Drive, named for University of Oregon track coach and company co-founder Bill Bowerman.

Fast forward to today. Nike now has 22 buildings on the campus. Last fall, the company announced it would be adding another building that will be completed next year, which would add about 3.2 million square feet of office and other space to the campus.

The actual event takes place on two football fields

The two fields, called the Ronaldo Fields, sit in the middle of a number of buildings on the Nike campus.

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

Having the partnership with Nike is a win-win

Andy Bark, the founder and CEO of Student Sports, which runs the event as well as the regional camps in the months leading up to The Opening Finals, worked with the company’s president of football events, Brian Stumpf, to get Nike fully on-board in 2011.

Bark and Stumpf worked their way up to a national seven-on-seven high school tournament with Nike, at Nike. It wasn't the endgame. What they wanted, Stumpf says, was a "pinnacle event concept with Nike."

Finally, they found their opening in 2011.

"As the sport of football has become what it is in America," Bark says, "more sponsorship dollars became available for The Opening."

Nike signed on as the title sponsor. Nike's Brian Strong says the company sees it as a way to serve the athlete in terms of training, mentorship and environment. If Nike gets it right, that can resonate with the athlete.

The prospects get a ton of Nike gear, including clothing, cleats, and other items that will be showcased throughout the week, which further promotes Nike’s brand, in addition to having it on its home campus.

"The Opening is a great opportunity for the best young prospects in America to receive coaching from former NFL and college stars, as well as for Nike to further its brand.” SB Nation’s Bud Elliott says. “Held on the beautiful Nike campus, athletes get to experience a great event at a first-class facility."

Follow along with our 2017 Opening Finals live blog: