Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bids In, Four Cities Seek MAAC Event

MAAC officials officially released the list of venues bidding to host the conference's post-season basketball tournament for a three-year block beginning in 2012.

The four cities that submitted bids are Albany, N.Y. (Times Union Center); Bridgeport, Conn. (Arena at Harbor Yard); Newark, N.J. (Prudential Center) and Springfield, Mass. (MassMutual Center).

All of the bids will be examined by the MAAC Council of Presidents and the Committee on Athletic Administration in late October, and bids will be awarded this December.

The chosen facility will host the event, which includes tournament play for both men and women, in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Times Union Center will host the 2010 Citizens Bank MAAC Basketball Championships on March 4-8, while the Arena at Harbor Yard will be the home for the event March 3-7, 2011.

It means that if one of the non-Albany cities secures the bid, the event will be somewhere other than the Empire State's capitol for a four-year stretch, the first time it will have been outside of Albany for more than a season since the venue there hosted for the first time in 1990.

The MAAC tournament set attendance records in Albany this past year when the total crowd figure for all games was 50,820. The next largest total turnout for the event was in 2000 when the figure was 50,087, again when the event was held in Albany.

This blogger asked this question in early March when league officials announced they were accepting bidding for a three-year stretch of hosting games: If the event is so wildly popular in Albany, why move it away from that community for such a considerable stretch of time?

Of course, there's more to it than pure attendance numbers. It has been many, many years since the conference relied heavily on finances derived from the event. Only a very small percentage of the league's operating budget comes from the tournament's revenue.

Instead, it's about what's best for the athletes and all 10 member institutions. It's about "exposure" for all 10 schools, and about the perception that all 10 have a "level" playing field, so to speak, in a competitive sense. After all, the Times Union Center is Siena's home court. And, it's about having the best environment for participants and fans.

It's not that Albany has done anything but provide all of that (except for a neutral court) for the event. But, sometimes, competition brings out something better when it comes to bidding for this type event. The feeling here is that Times Union Center administrators will be more creative than ever in putting together a package that will lure the event back to Albany for the three-year block under consideration.

But, that's just a very uneducated opinion. Even MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor isn't certain about what will happen. The decision will ultimately be made by administrators from the conference schools. Ensor will make a recommendation, but the league's Council of Presidents has, on occassion, made decisions counter to Ensor's recommendations on past issues.

It seems, though, that having strong turnouts for games is part of the event's atmosphere that the league strives to achieve, and Albany has certainly shown itself best at that.

One of the current bidders, the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., hosted the tournament in 2007 and the total attendance figure for that year was 23,561.

The Sovereign Bank Arena hosted the event once, in 2003, and was scheduled to host this past season. But interest in the event there was so poor that the venue asked to be relieved of its hosting duties in 2009, which resulted in the tournament making an originally unschedued return to Albany ... and, to its record attendance figures.

Buffalo has hosted the event in its arena on four occassions, the last in 2005. But, interest there diminished each time and that facility did not submit a bid for the current open block of years.

Of the two interested facilities that have never previously hosted the event, Springfield's is by far the smallest. Its MassMutual Center has a maximum seating capacity of about 8,000 (probably less, considering the MAAC tournament's required courtside configuration). Last year's event alone had three session crowds considerably larger than that figure.

And, Springfield has no so-called "home team," ensuring large turnouts for its games. The closest MAAC program, Fairfield, is located 87 miles away. Siena is 88 miles away, Marist is 122 miles away, Iona 121 miles away, and every other MAAC school is significantly further removed from Springfield.

Newark's Prudential Center is a major-league facility with a basketball capacity of 18,500. Opened in 2007 and the home facility for the NHL's New Jersey Devils, it's a state-of-the-art venue.

But, will MAAC basketball be an attractive event there? The last time the MAAC held its post-season tournament in New York's Metropolitan area, 1989 at The Meadowlands, attendance was so poor that the conference moved the event to Albany the following year and has never since held it in an arena that didn't also host at least some regular-season MAAC games.

1 comment:

Bryan Y. said...

Firstly, Springfield should in no way host this event, there is not a MAAC team in that city or state.
I have long proposed a somewhat radical, but potentially great, idea.
We all want the MAAC to be seen on the same level as the MVC, the CAA, Horizon, and other upper-level mid majors, and it should be.
Well, one step towards achieving that is hosting the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. that's right, I said it.
Geographically, it is centrally located. Iona and Manhattan fans can hop on the subway, it's an hour or so by train from Rider, and less than that from St. Peter's. Poughkeepsie is just as far from Albany as NYC, so there's no difference there. Same thing goes for Fairfield. It would be quick 2-3 hour train or car ride for siena, alot closer for loyola, only Niagara and Canisius would have a longer trip.
Further, I believe attendance would be great because, as I pointed out, fans of 80% of the MAAC schools are no more than 2-3 hours away, and many would be enticed to come not only for the tournament but also to visit the city for a few days. I mean let's face it, Albany aint a tourist attraction.
Fans of Rider and St. Pete's who might think albany is too far a drive would flock to MSG, especially since it sits right above Penn station where NJ transit comes in.They could take a train back home after the games are over for the night. Iona and Manhattan fans would be a 20 minute train ride away, you don't think a whole bunch of them would come? And for Marist and Fairfield, it's an easy 1 hour train ride, or they could drive.
Further, the buzz this would get would be amazing. MAAC tournament games would get huge coverage in the NYC papers, it would get huge buzz in the national media too, that MSG is hosting another conference tournament.
Let's get this done!