We can educate kids in school sports just as well with or without elegant venues. That doesn’t mean we won’t miss The Palace of Auburn Hills for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Individual Wrestling Finals, but people are more important than places in educational athletics. Values are more critical than venues.
Nevertheless, when we think and talk about sites for MHSAA Girls and Boys Basketball Finals in 2019 and beyond, as we have been forced to do because of increasing costs and decreasing availabilities at Michigan State University’s Breslin Student Events Center, it draws more public and media attention than the fundamental importance of the topic.
Our discussions across the state and our surveys have given us some insights.
One is that using Michigan’s larger NCAA Division I university arenas is not considered a high priority by a majority of our constituents. Nor is utilizing the same facility for both genders a necessity.
It appears most people like WHEN and WHERE we’ve conducted our tournaments the past eight years (the Breslin Center, on consecutive weekends for girls and boys); but most people seem to value the schedule more than the site ... they appear to prefer that we keep the calendar we’ve enjoyed for many years, even if the venue must change to make that possible.
It appears that many people prefer a smaller venue than Breslin’s nearly 15,000-seat arena for the girls tournament, some reflecting fondly on the exciting, often near-capacity atmosphere that Central Michigan University’s Rose Arena provided in 1996 through 2003. They should get that atmosphere for this year’s Finals at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in March, the largest NCAA Division III arena in the country, which has twice hosted the Division III Women’s Basketball Final Four.
We had hoped to be able to announce this December the decisions that would inform everyone when and where we will be staging Girls and Boys Basketball Finals for the next four years; but it is becoming increasingly apparent that we may be making decisions on a year-to-year basis for a while, hoping eventually to sort things out and establish new traditions that we come to value as much as the schedule and site stability that ended in 2017.