Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Major concert announcement: Michael W. Smith will perform at the Kentucky State Fair this year for one of the "free" shows. The concert takes place Monday August 21st, 8 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium. The show is "free" with paid admission to the Fair, meaning there isn't an additional charge for the concert (like $40 for "American Idols Live"). I listened to some of Smitty's Worship Again live CD the other day and was reminded just how good one of this concerts can be. And that's not just because he chose to record his best live record here in Louisville - although it doesn't hurt. I haven't been a fan of all of his music, but for some reason, I've really liked Worship and Worship Again. It should be really good and with it being affordable, the stadium should be packed. See you there!

The final "Faith Night" of the summer takes place on the 15th at Freedom Hall with the Louisville Fire Arena 2 Football Team. "Faith Nights" have been taking place around the country at sporting events and this summer marked the first time they happened in Louisville. Matthew West is scheduled to sing outside of Freedom Hall that evening, with the Fire playing at 7 inside. Matt Toy, Public Relations director for Third Coast Sports, the organization behind "Faith Nights," gave me the scoop on these events, which are getting national attention.

LMN: What is Faith Night?

MT: Faith Nights marry a Christian concert with a professional sporting event. At each event, one of the home team's players will give his personal testimony of how God has worked in his life. Sponsors partner with Third Coast to give away items to the first 2,000 fans on certain nights. Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato from the hit animated series VeggieTales appear in each city thanks to Big Idea, Inc..

LMN: Tell me about Third Coast Sports.

MT: Third Coast Sports is best known for the Faith Nights they've held with minor league baseball teams. In 2002, Third Coast helped launch Faith Nights in Nashville, Tennessee with the Sounds, the triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 2004 and 2005, five of the Sounds' top ten attended games of the entire season were Faith Nights. Almost 800 church groups attended Faith Nights in Nashville in 2005. The events were so successful they attracted the attention of ESPN's Outside the Lines, The 700 Club, ESPN2's Cold Pizza, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Baseball America, Associated Press, The New York Times and dozens of other media outlets across the nation.

The national publicity garnered in Nashville paved the way for Third Coast Sports to take Faith Nights across the nation. In 2005, Third Coast successfully held 23 events in 10 cities outside of Nashville. From Portland, Oregon to Hagerstown, Maryland, Faith Nights enjoyed incredible success and proved that these events would work outside of the Bible Belt.

The national expansion caught the attention of USA Today who featured Third Coast in an article on the front page of the July 22, 2005 edition. That was followed by a feature story on ABC World News Tonight in August.

In 2006, the expansion continues. Third Coast will hold its first events in Major League Baseball, Arena Football and AF2 Football and minor league hockey. Church groups in at least 40 cities will gather for at least 60 Faith Night events this year. Minor league baseball will continue to serve as the core of the company with between 35-45 events.

LMN: How did Third Coast Sports come up with the idea?

MT: In 2001, Mike Snider, CEO of Third Coast Sports and owner of Third Coast Artist Agency, approached the Nashville Sounds about taking the Sounds church night and building it around a Christian recording artist and forming the foundation of Faith Nights.

After teaming up with Brent High, former Sounds Vice President of Sales, Faith Nights became a Nashville staple and received national press for its unique marketing that combined the Christian music industry and sports.

With three years of amazing success with the Nashville Sounds under their belt, Brent High joined Mike to become President and Partner of Third Coast Sports. Mike's sister-in-law, Lynn Jones Golden, also joined the ownership group as Chief Financial Officer. Under Mike, Brent and Lynn's leadership, Third Coast Sports has gone national running Faith Nights around the United States since 2005.

LMN: Who are some of the other artists that have participated across the nation?

MT: Here are a few of the artists who have played over the years. The Afters, Jeremy Camp, Shawn McDonald, Jars of Clay, Todd Agnew, Barlow Girl, Audio Adrenaline, Matthew West, Aaron Shust, Caedmons Call.

LMN: Tell me about Matthew West.

MT: Singer/song writer Matthew West was nominated in 2005 for New Artist of the Year at the annual GMA Music Awards. Since his 2003 release, Happy, West has been on a fast track to making music history. The project's first single, "More," held the #1 spot on the Christian chart for a record-breaking nine weeks and went on to be named Christian Song of the Year by ASCAP. The singer/songwriter has recently released his follow-up album, History, that features hit songs such as "The Next Thing You Know" and "The Day Before You," which country group Rascal Flatts also made famous thanks to West's song writing.

LMN: What do you hope will happen with Faith Night events in Louisville?

MT: We plan on continuing to grow the Faith Nights in Louisville. Matthew West is a great artist and will put on a great event on July 15.

LMN: What is the best part of attending Faith Night?

MT: Get to see a great Christian concert, get a VeggieTales giveaway and also go to an exciting football game. It is fun to see the Christian community come together for a great outreach event.

I attended the "Faith Night" last month that featured Mainstay and Bob and Larry from the Veggie Tales. I had a really good time. I not a big football guy, but the game was really fun and everyone seemed to be having a great time in my section. If you're a fan of Matthew West, you'll like it. Tickets for Faith Night can be purchased from Third Coast Sports by calling 1-888-456-0451. For more information, check out thirdcoastsports.com.

Well, the year is more than half over now. In next month's LMN, I'll have the rest of 2006's major Christian concert announcements.