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Updated: Monday, 11 Mar 2013, 10:53 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 24 Apr 2012, 2:28 PM CDT
STEVENS POINT - Since its inception in 1976 the girls basketball state tournament has been held in Madison, but that will be changing next season when the tournament moves to the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
The WIAA Board of Control approved moving the state tournament to Ashwaubenon for the next two seasons because of a scheduling conflict with the University of Wisconsin hockey.
The Board of Control met Tuesday to decide the fates of both the boys and girls state tournaments and decided to keep the boys tournament in Madison through 2020. It was thought the tournaments would be a package deal and both would be played at the same venue, but that wasn’t the case.
The WIAA decided to keep the boys tournament in Madison, where it will be played the second weekend in March for the next two seasons, while the girls tournament will be played during the third week.
This is a change from February when the WIAA had reached an agreement with PMI Entertainment Group and the Resch Center to host both tournaments.
“We were operating on information as we understood it in February,” said Dave Anderson, executive director of the WIAA. “Since that time the information and obstructions we had been confronted with in February have been removed (by the University of Wisconsin).”
But not for two weekends, which is why the WIAA moved the girls tournament to the Resch Center. It could’ve been held in Madison at the Alliant Energy Center, where it was as recent as 2008, or the UW Fieldhouse, but Deb Hauser, associate director of the WIAA, said the key was finding the best venue.
She said if you put the Resch Center, the Alliant Energy Center and the UW Fieldhouse in the same city which venue would the tournament be played in? It was simple - the Resch Center.
The reason the boys tournament is being played in the Kohl Center is because of capacity. The Resch Center would hold about 9,300 for basketball, while the Kohl Center is around 17,000.
This past March, there were multiple sessions at the Kohl Center in which the boys tournament drew more than 12,000, and the WIAA didn’t want to turn away fans. Therefore, the Kohl Center was the pick.
“I think the large part of this decision wasn’t just venue availability, but the ability to hold the event,” Hauser said. “This year, we experienced about an 8,000 increase in attendance for the boys and as we looked it wasn’t even feasible to fit our boys into the Resch Center. It became very evident it was going to mean 3,000 to 4,000 people per session not gaining access to the games.
“That’s a real concern to us when you have entire communities that want to come out and support their teams and now we’re saying we don’t have enough room.”
As for the girls tournament, six teams in the FOX 11 coverage area – De Pere, Oshkosh West, New London, Notre Dame, Kewaunee and Oshkosh Lourdes – reached the state tournament this past season. Meanwhile, there was just one Madison area school in the tournament.
With the Resch Center being the home for the girls for at least two years there is a possibility there could be improved attendance. Anderson said this past year the girls tournament drew 30,000 fans, while in the past it has drawn as much as 50,000.
Anderson said attendance is a huge issue for the tournament because not every state tournament brings in the potential money the girls tournament does.
“We carefully considered all the options and perspectives that go into making a determination that impact these events, because these events produce revenue that provide the opportunity to conduct high school tournaments for all our sponsored sports,” Anderson said.
The WIAA talked with girls coaches about the possibility of moving their tournament to the Resch Center and they prefer Madison, no matter where the tournament is played.
“The girls coaches would prefer to stay in Madison,” Hauser said. “They probably prefer to play at a venue other than the Kohl Center if it meant they could stay in Madison. We struggled with that because we don’t believe the next best venue available is in Madison.
“We believe that is the Resch Center.”
While the Resch Center will be the new home for the girls tournament, it could be short-lived. After the 2014 tournaments are completed, the Kohl Center would be available to host each tournament during the second and third weeks of March, so it’s unclear if the two-year run is a cup of coffee for the Resch Center or if at actually stands a chance of keeping it long-term.
“Haven’t talked that far,” Anderson said. “Our commitment right now, and as we see as a potential with the Resch Center in Green Bay, is the opportunity for the spotlight to shine on the girls tournament.”
In addition to venues, Anderson said another key was the second and third weekends of March. This past season, the tournaments were played during the third and fourth weekends, and the girls tournament interfered with spring sports, spring break and the NCAA tournament, which is why attendance was down.
WIAA wants the girls tournament, and the boys for that matter, to have the biggest spotlight possible. With the current situation, that means moving the boys to Week 2 of March and the girls to Week 3, in Ashwaubenon.
In 2015, no matter where the girls tournament is held, it is expected for the girls to tip off the tournament season in Week 2 and the boys in Week 3.
2013 state tournament dates
2014 state tournament dates
Wrestling not affected
The WIAA also said the individual state wrestling tournament at the Kohl Center will not be affected by a UW-Penn State hockey series as it was first thought. The tournament will be Feb. 21-23 next year.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay