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My thoughts on the impending move of the state basketball tournament

12/19/2011, 2:00pm CST
By Nicholas Kartos

What do lingerie football, minor league hockey, Disney on Ice and crappy rock bands have in common with high school basketball? The answer would be that they could very likely all be housed in the same facility as soon as 2014.

I am talking about the Resch Center in Green Bay and the sentence the WIAA slipped at the end of a recent Board of Control press release regarding getting the boot from the Kohl Center due to Big Ten Hockey.

The state basketball tournament is the WIAA’s largest revenue driver, accounting for half of their annual receipts. So it’s peculiar that such a huge decision, which apparently will be announced before this year’s state tournament, was released in such a fashion. They also have not asked for any input from the high school coaches in our fine state.  Furthermore, I have heard from two different sources in the lodging industry that they are citing things like handicap seating and lack of second deck railings as reasons they can't use the Field House.

These things lead me to believe that we are looking towards a change. This is my plea to the WIAA to keep the tournaments in Madison.

My solution would be to have the Kohl Center on reserve and use the Field House as a back-up if the Badgers are in the Big Ten Hockey Tournament.

Badger Hockey is good, but.
We are going to base a decision on the Wisconsin hockey team winning the Big 10 every year? Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State might have something to say about that, all are currently ranked nationally while the Badgers are not.

February 1 deadline. It has been stated that the WIAA would need to know by February 1st what facility they would be using in the scenario of having the Field House be a back-up. What I have never heard is why. What is the reason(s) and what could possible solutions be. I can’t imagine it’s an unsolvable problem.

History and Tradition.
You can’t ignore it. It is important to fans, coaches and players alike. Not to mention, this expected 3-5 year deal will include the 2016 state tournament, which will be the 100th anniversary. After being in Madison for all those years, it just seems wrong to transplant it for such a huge event.

Cost. I get it. The tournaments bring about $5 million a year to the Madison area. Other parts of the state want a piece of it. I’m sure the WIAA will receive a very attractive offer from Green Bay. But you can’t tell me the Madison area isn’t going to be very aggressive to try and match it.

Event Planning & Management. I get it part two. It’s easier to plan an event with one facility nailed down. It’s easier to plan an event at a newer facility with a ton of parking in a location that is right off a major highway. But when in sports have we ever told our athletes to take the easy way out? To achieve anything great you need to put in the hard work and dedication.

UW too Cool for High School? This is my plea inside a plea. I really hope the folks at UW don’t think they’ve outgrown high school sports. I know you are bringing in more money than ever and this might be more of a hassle for the athletic department than the money it brings in. And I know your success in football, basketball and hockey have helped really boost the interest in your university. But I can honestly say I fell in love with the university when I went to state tournament games in high school. I hope these kinds of things aren’t lost on the folks that are doing the negotiations.

Capacity Issues. If the event is at the Resch or the Field House, there will be capacity issues compared with the Kohl Center. But hey, what’s wrong with having a sellout? It not only will make the games more exciting, it could help boost alternative revenues for the WIAA such as online streaming.

Increasing the Bottom Line. In business, you basically have three strategies to increase your bottom line. You can 1) Generate more sales/Create a better product 2) Cut expenses 3) Increase prices. The WIAA has already gone through with #3, increasing ticket prices from $8 to $10. I hope the remaining focus will be more on #1 and not #2.

I love Green Bay, but. Don’t get me wrong, I am originally from the Fox Valley and love Green Bay. I think a state basketball tournament run in Green Bay at the Resch would be a very well-run event and would be easy logistically for all involved. If this was high school football moving their state tournament to Lambeau, I’d think it would be an unbelievable idea and I’d be behind it.

I just can’t get behind moving basketball, basketball belongs in Madison.

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