Bloomington-Normal won't be among the communities bidding to host the boys' high school state basketball finals starting in 2021, citing scheduling conflicts.
Matt Hawkins, director of sports and marketing development for the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Illinois High School Association finals, dubbed “The Original March Madness," would conflict most years with the Special Olympics state basketball championships which are held at Horton Field House, next door to Redbird Arena.
“With the number of athletes and volunteers and things that they have coming in to town during that time, there would be no way that our market could handle housing the amount of people that would be at each event,” Hawkins said.
Illinois State University athletics director Larry Lyons concurred, saying parking and other accommodations aren’t robust enough to hold two major events like that at the same time.
“You’d like to support as much of that stuff as you can,” Lyons said. “Obviously we are a host for the volleyball and girls’ basketball (state finals). I would find it highly unlikely they would put all those of those in one spot if I’m in (the IHSA's) shoes.”
Lyons added the potential for ISU postseason basketball could also complicate the schedule.
“We could potentially bump into men’s NIT, women’s NIT postseason hosting,” Lyons said. “Those sorts of things you have to take into consideration.”
Peoria's Carver Arena has hosted the boys’ finals since 1996. State Farm Center in Champaign hosted the finals for the previous 77 years.
Hawkins added no other locations in Bloomington-Normal are large enough to host the boys’ state finals, even Grossinger Motors Arena.
The IHSA stipulates a venue must have a minimum seating capacity of 8,000. The arena lists its capacity at 7,000. Redbird Arena seats 10,200.
Hawkins and Lyons said Bloomington-Normal plans to bid to continue hosting the girls' state basketball finals. Redbird Arena has hosted them since 1992. Horton Field House hosted the first girls’ finals in 1977 before the event moved to Champaign-Urbana for 14 years.
“I think we would have been disappointed had they not thrown their hat into the ring to either of them,” IHSA assistant executive director Matt Troha said. “Girls basketball has really been a good fit there and I think they’ll have a great chance again to return there.”
Hawkins said the girls’ finals contribute an estimated $1.4 million to the Bloomington-Normal economy annually, while the Special Olympics state basketball tournament brings in nearly $300,000 per year.
The IHSA has set a Jan. 10 deadline for bids to be submitted. Troha said the association hasn’t received any bids yet.
He said the IHSA hopes to announce a site for 2021 by April.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.