Feb 29, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For 20 high school basketball teams, a one-time fantasy gets transformed into sweet reality when they play the Section III championships at the Carrier Dome.
Unless your name is Dajuan Coleman or Breanna Stewart, this is, likely, the closest any of these teenagers will ever get to play on the same court where SU legends were made. That’s an allure that other venues, whether it’s Utica Auditorium or even OCC’s glorious new SRC Arena, can’t match.
At the same time, though, this set of championship games is serving as a test of sorts, to see if something much bigger will come to town.
Section III has made no secret of wanting to bring the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys basketball championships to the Dome starting in 2014. That would be fine, except for the small fact that they’ve found a safe, secure and happy home in Glens Falls for more than 30 years.
This is the rare instance of an issue where strong, logical and compelling arguments can be made for either side, and the answer is not wrong, whichever side you fall on.
Start with the Glens Falls point of view. Since 1981, the state basketball tournament has made a nice, comfortable home there at the city’s Civic Center, evolving into a strong tradition and the biggest sporting event in that area each year.
During that time, the tournament committee, working on a volunteer basis, has turned the whole experience into something special. Ask any player or coach from any participating team, and they’ll rave about the way they were treated.
The media adds to that special feeling, too, with exemplary, all-out coverage from the local Post-Star that includes live streams of every single game, semifinals and finals. For hoops fans that can’t make the trip, it puts you there, and it’s exciting.
All of these things cover up, to some degree, the drawbacks, such as the amount of travel teams from Western New York and Long Island have to make, which does affect attendance – less than 23,000 per year in the last decade. Finding nearby lodging, or parking, near the Civic Center, can be a task, too.
Here is where Syracuse bases its argument. Finding hotel rooms would not be a problem, for sure, and at least from the Upstate perspective, it’s only a few hour’s drive, whether it’s from Albany or Buffalo. Even the Downstate schools would not have to go too far.
Don’t forget about the prestige part, either. Football players in New York already have the allure of the Dome as a final destination, and there’s no doubt basketball players (and fans) would feel the same electricity of a championship weekend in this grand venue.
Even the tradition argument cuts two ways. Sure, everyone who’s gone to Glens Falls loves the experience, but the excitement of a new home would give the tournament a real jolt of attention that the NYSPHSAA might find difficult to ignore.
Where Syracuse suffers, at least at the outset, is in the organization and media considerations. On the former, there would be a need to be a real commitment from local officials, preferably on the same volunteer basis that has worked so well in Glens Falls, plus a willingness to foot some of the ancillary expenses. SU will, of course, need to be on board in various manners.
On the latter, there’s no way a city as large as Syracuse can make the state final four a rallying point as Glens Falls does. Casual sports fans in this area are directing their attention to SU basketball in March, and most media outlets will follow that train, leaving the high school kids behind.
Overshadowing all those considerations is (1) the fact that SU might still want NCAA tournament regional events in the future and (2) the worry that a heavily-hyped boys state final four at the Dome will completely overshadow the well-run girls event at Troy’s Hudson Valley Community College.
Needless to say, it’s a lot for the 11-person state basketball committee to consider when, in May, Section III officials are set to make their case to bring the big show to the Dome, while Section II officials will argue for Glens Falls tradition and continuity.
Before all that, though, the folks here have to make sure it can run a smaller-scale event like the Section III finals with efficiency and confidence. Otherwise, all the arguments to go for something bigger will collapse.
Plenty is at stake when the area’s top boys and girls hoops teams clash for championship banners. And as it turns out, a lot is on the line for the adults, too, especially those who want to see big-time basketball later in the month of March.