Friday, December 19, 2008

MAAC Tourney Tops 5-year Plan

Much of the news of a basketball variety contained in the MAAC's recently approved 5-year Strategic Plan involves future league tournaments.

We already know that event will be held at Albany's Times Union Center this season as well as at the end of the 2009-10 season. The event returns to the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., for 2011, but remains open beyond that.

At their Dec. 11 meeting, the MAAC's Council of Presidents approved a recommendation for the development of bidding specifications for a 3-year commitment for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 league championship tournament at one venue.

Formal applications will be due by September, 2009 and the league's Council of Presidents will make a decision, at its December 2009 meeting, on awarding those three events.

League commissioner Rich Ensor, who does not have a vote about the ultimate site (but does have considerable influence), said that multiple venues have expressed preliminary interest.

Among those are Albany's T-U Center, Mohegan Sun Casino's Arena in Uncasville, Conn., the Izod Center (at the Meadowlands), the Prudential Center in Newark, N.Y., the Baltimore Arena, the Arena at Harbor Yard and the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

"The dynamics of a three-year deal are a little different (than alternating sites annually)," said Ensor.

Albany only has it for two successive years (this season and next) because this season's original host, the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J., asked to be released from its commitment.

Ensor declined to address any front-runners for the up-for-grabs three-year block.

But, it would be difficult to imagine that the Albany facility, which has hosted the tournament 13 times in the 19 years since it opened, would go four years without being home for the post-season event. Attendance figures at the Albany arena, particularly in recent years, have dwarfed turnouts when the event is held elsewhere.

"I know it would be hard for Siena fans (if, after the event is played in Bridgeport in 2011, it also gets played elsewhere for the next three seasons)," said Ensor. "But, it's also a great opportunity for Albany to host it five times in a six-year span."

Bob Belber, the general manager of the Times Union Center in Albany, has indicated that he he will aggressively pursue hosting the tournament whenever it is available.

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