ASHWAUBENON - The WIAA's decision on the state basketball tournaments was met with mixed emotions on Tuesday, but it shouldn't be.
For the first time in state basketball history girls high school basketball teams will compete for a gold ball in a place not called Madison. And for people in northeastern Wisconsin there's no better place to have this than the Resch Center.
The WIAA announced its decision to keep the boys state basketball tournament in Madison, while the girls state tournament moves north to the Resch Center for the next two seasons.
The fate of the state tournaments was up in the air because of scheduling conflicts having to do with University of Wisconsin hockey and the women's Frozen Four. The WIAA wanted to return the state tournaments to the second and third weekends in March, where they have traditionally been, but the Kohl Center in Madison couldn't house both events on those weekends for the next two years, just one.
So, the boys stayed and the girls moved.
Based on a vote to move both tournaments to the Resch Center in February the decision was a letdown in the Green Bay area. But after the vote, UW was able to open the second weekend in March for the boys tournament, so things changed, especially for the girls.
For the past 36 years, the girls tournament has been played in Madison, and in three venues – the Kohl Center, the Alliant Energy Center and the UW Fieldhouse.
But Deb Hauser, associate director of the WIAA, said with the Kohl Center not being available for the third week the next two years, the next best place to go to was Ashwaubenon. This was more about venue than city, and Hauser said without a doubt the second-best arena to hold the tournament in was across the street from Lambeau Field.
During the season I talked with players and coaches about the possible move to the Resch Center and on one hand they liked it because of location, but on the other hand didn't like it because of location.
Yeah, that's right.
Bringing the tournament to Ashwaubenon should mean more local teams will have better crowds, but what will be missing is the trip to state and what it all involves.
After Kewaunee won the Division 3 girls state title this season, players said they didn't want the tournament in Ashwaubenon because it was only a 30-minute drive. They talked about the experience they had traveling to Madison.
Furthermore, playing on the Kohl Center court is a dream for any high school kid, while the Resch Center court just doesn't have that aura.
Some may wonder why the WIAA wants the second and third weeks of March. Here's why: Spring break, spring sports and the NCAA tournament.
When the girls tournament was played this past season in the fourth week, many schools didn't have the expected turnout because of spring break and the attendance for the tournament was 30,000, which pales into comparison to some years when the tournament attracted around 50,000.
Some spring sports start late March, so there is an overlap between the seasons.
And the NCAA tournament (which starts the third week of March), especially when the Badgers are playing, draws people away from the Kohl Center. The boys tournament wouldn't be affected by the NCAA tournament.
The WIAA made the best decision, at least for the short-term. It's understandable why people would be upset about the girls moving out of Madison; there's 36 years of history there.
However, who's to say this won't be as good or even better in Ashwaubenon in time? The Resch Center is a great facility and size-wise is perfect.
There were sessions this past tournament season where the atmosphere lacked a little spark because there was a small crowd in a 17,000-seat building. The Resch Center will provide a better atmosphere with 9,300 seats available.
Furthermore, you can bet PMI Entertainment Group will put its best foot forward the next two years in an attempt to keep the tournament in Ashwaubenon long-term.
There's no reason to not look forward to the 2013 and 2014 tournaments at the Resch Center. The FOX 11 area is as strong an area in girls basketball as there is in the state. This past season, De Pere, New London and Kewaunee won three of the five gold balls, while Oshkosh Lourdes captured a silver ball. Also, Oshkosh West and Notre Dame reached the state semifinals.
Girls basketball is healthy in this area and drawing the girls basketball tournament will only make this decision by the WIAA look better. Some may not like the idea of the tournament coming to Ashwaubenon but don't be surprised after two years if it stays and everybody applauds.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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