Sunday, March 8, 2009

Big Crowds Might Not Keep Tournament Here

ALBANY, N.Y. - Imagine that the Times Union Center, which is hosing the MAAC tournament for the 13th time since the arena first opened its doors in 1990, might go without the event for a four-year stretch.

That's the scenario that will be on the agenda when placing the tournament in future years is next considered by conference officials.

The event will be here again a year from now and, then, move to the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., for 2001.

After that the MAAC has expressed a desire to place the tournament at one site for a three-year (2012-through-2014) run.

"I can imagine it happening," said MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor. "I've got a vivid imagination."

It might not even matter if this year's event surpasses the existing attendance record for the tournanent of 50,087 in 2000.

Ensor indicated the primary reason for an extended move away from the Times Union Center would be perceived competitive balance.

The league has even sought to do that here, replacing Siena related floor signs with those of the league and creating courtside premium seating that was made available in equal blocks to all 10 conference schools.

"In this conference there's a lot of competition to be the team that can control its own destine, to some extent, (by being the home team) to win the event," said Ensor.

Ensor said that the home teams wins 60 percent of conference tournament games, but in the 19 previous seasons the "home" men's team has only emerged as the tournament champion three times.

Administrators from arenas in Baltimore, Bridgeport, Conn., and the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., have been here this weekend to view operations.

"We don't mind that they're here," said Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber. "It won't help them. They can see the things we get done, but they don't see anything that goes on to get to this point in terms of meetings, preparation and organization."

Ensor said facilities at The Meadowlands and the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut are also interested in making a bid to host the event.

Bids must be submitted this spring, and the league's council of presidents will ultimate decide in December where to hold the tournament when its current contract is up.

"Can I envision it not being here for a four-year stretch? No, I can't," said Belber.

“Nobody thinks there’s a problem in Albany with the attendance,” Ensor said. “It’s really singly about neutrality.”

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