The IHSAA is looking for a permanent home for the girls basketball state finals, but it more than likely wont be in Fort Wayne.
The city and Memorial Coliseum have submitted a bid for the 2013 finals despite the indication that it will be awarded to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Last years host site, Indiana State in Terre Haute, has also submitted a bid.
There are only three choices that will be discussed by the IHSAA Executive Committee today because scheduling conflicts didnt allow Purdue in West Lafayette and Ball State in Muncie to be a part of the bid process. The IHSAA Board of Directors also discussed it during a retreat Wednesday, and an official announcement is expected Friday.
The Indianapolis venue would be the preferred geographical site, but we have some challenges we cant overcome in certain instances, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said. I have some concerns about the girls basketball program in general, but in particular the state finals because we keep moving it around, and there is no real home for the (state finals). I think those days are way down the road yet.
The girls basketball state finals have been at five different venues in the 2000s – Butlers Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bankers Life Fieldhouse (when it was Conseco Fieldhouse) and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, as well as Memorial Coliseum and Indiana States Hulman Center.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse is the favorite for the state finals primarily because the building is available on March 2, 2013. The arena is rotating with Chicagos United Center as the site of the Big Ten championships. The building would be available in 2013 and 2015.
Cox said Hinkle Fieldhouse could be in the mix in the future because of Butlers move to the Atlantic-10, as well as the possibility of the Indiana State Fairgrounds Pepsi Coliseum, which is set to undergo an expansion.
A change in the dates of the girls state finals to alleviate scheduling conflicts will also be discussed, but Cox said he doesnt see that as much of an option.
Right now we are not in a position to change the date of the state finals, which might give us more flexibility, he said. Any time you move a sports season, you are going to create conflicts in other areas. Thats why we are not interested in changing dates just to accommodate a venue that creates a conflict.
The commissioner also stated there has been some talk the Big Ten might consolidate the mens and womens tournaments, leaving an open date for the IHSAA. Any future sites and dates, though, are premature talk, according to Cox, and the focus is only on 2013.
Fort Wayne played host to the girls state finals in 2010 and 2011 and got rave reviews, but the tournament was moved to Terre Haute after some complaints from southern schools about the driving distance and a sharp decline in attendance (12,564 to 8,019) in Year 2.
If everything was equal, I think they would like to stay in Indianapolis with it just because of geography, and if they had a comparable financial deal, Memorial Coliseum general manager Randy Brown said.
When we put our bid together three years ago, it was a very aggressive bid, and at a level that (the IHSAA) had not seen before. Some people in Indianapolis were dismayed that we were so aggressive. One of my counterparts with one of the facilities down there was, Why did you do that? Because now that has changed the mix for everybody.
It will be interesting to see if there are other factors than just the bid.
The attendance at Indiana State didnt climb significantly last year (8,475) and there was also some negative feedback from some about the hosting duties done by Indiana State, even though Cox said Terre Haute and Indiana State officials did a great job and said the driving was eased a little bit by being there.
Because of Memorial Coliseums popularity, Brown admitted that he doesnt know how much longer the city and facility would continue to submit bids for the girls state finals, if not selected for 2013.
Every venue who wishes to make a bid has its own battles and challenges that it has to deal with, Cox said. The only challenge Fort Wayne has is geography.