The law firm of Baker Donelson is planning to fill a sponsorship void left by The Tennessean, ensuring Metro and Middle Tennessee students will have a chance to participate in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
As first reported  Friday by The City Paper, the Gannett-owned Tennessean opted out of sponsoring a Middle Tennessee regional spelling bee for next year. Historically, the newspaper has paid the $5,550 required to hold the annual event, but Tennessean marketing leaders said time and expenses were too great to continue doing so.
To compete at the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. –– televised on ESPN –– competitors must first win local bees before emerging victorious at regional events.
But lacking a sponsor, the regional bee was in jeopardy of taking place. And without a regional bee, Nashville-area students wouldn’t be able to qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
However, it is no longer an issue. Metro Nashville Public Schools announced Monday that Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. has informed Metro that Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC has agreed to underwrite the costs of the event.
In an email, MNPS spokeswoman Olivia Brown said organizers identified a new regional bee sponsor after media reports detailed the situation.
Of the total sponsorship, $1,050 goes toward the event, and another $4,500 is directed to the winner and family for traveling and lodging at the national competition.
Spelling bee contestants cannot be older than 14.
The 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee is slated for the spring. Dates for the local and regional events are scheduled accordingly. The regional bee, to be held at Belmont University, typically occurs in February.