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MC'ya'L tourney moving

1/17/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The Mid-Continent League basketball tournament has played the semifinals and finals in Hays since 1973.

But Saturday's boys' championship game might be the last MCL contest in Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Fort Hays State University officials were unable to come up with a suitable schedule for the 2015 league tournament in a November meeting with MCL officials. As a result, the MCL tournament next year will be in WaKeeney, at Trego Community High School. After 2015, the home of the MCL tourney has yet to be determined.

"To my knowledge, this is going to be a one-year issue right now," FHSU Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke said.

In past years, FHSU gave the MCL a two-week window -- the second and third weeks in January -- to have the tournament in GMC, with a two-year contract. However, the Tigers will be home both of those weekends next year in MIAA play, and are on the road those weekends in 2016.

"This is a real simple issue here. We're home two weekends in a row, so our facility is not available," Hammeke said. "It's a one-year deal. The following year, it should be available. They could come back if they like, be available during that time. The year after that (2017), I can't answer right now."

That uncertainty is the problem for MCL officials.

"That two-year window was really nice," said Norton Community High School Principal Rudy Perez, also MCL president.

The two-week window allowed the MCL to schedule the tournament one week and have league games the other week, depending on FHSU's schedule.

The MIAA basketball schedule has been in flux in recent years, with the subtraction of some schools and the addition of others, Hammeke said.

"Our MIAA schedule, if you're paying attention, changes every year," Hammeke said. "Every time somebody changes (league affiliation), it goes to a different schedule."

MCL officials asked FHSU if it would be possible to flip-flop home and away dates one of those weekends next year. Hammeke said the MIAA will have travel partners for basketball next season, and four schools would have to agree on a switch, which would be difficult.

"I can understand their point," Perez said of FHSU. "They need to take care of their basketball coaches. That's their gymnasium, and they allow us to come in and host the tournament.

"It's great. Our kids get to play on a college floor. Probably 90 percent of those kids will never step on another college floor again."

Perez said the tournament is beneficial for FHSU as well.

"For Fort Hays, they get to bring kids on campus," he said. "That's a great selling point for them."

FHSU and the MCL split gate receipts until 2011, when the university started charging the MCL a flat $5,000 fee for the tournament. In addition, FHSU keeps all concession revenue. If FHSU has to bring in workers to take tickets, the MCL pays for them, too.

The city of Hays also benefits from the MCL tourney, said Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Jana Jordan.

"It's very sad for our community that they're not going to be here, because that's a couple days that showcase our community," she said. "They shop here; they dine here; hopefully, they use our entertainment."

Jordan said a study shows a person staying overnight would spend $150. For those who don't stay overnight, Jordan has a formula which calculates it to be $55 per person.

After the November meeting with FHSU, MCL officials discussed in their December meeting options for the 2015 tournament. In their meeting Jan. 9, MCL principals decided to play the semifinals and finals at Trego in 2015.

"They do have the facilities," Perez said.

MCL officials will determine the long-term future of the tournament after the 2015 tournament in WaKeeney is completed.

"This is an experiment year for us, so I don't see us making a determination until after the league tournament next year in Trego," said Ellis High School Principal Corey Burton.

"We'd love to have them, as the schedule allows," Hammeke said. "They're welcome here to play as long as the schedule allows.

"Simple statement: It's not quite as simple as it appears."

The MCL would like to continue having its tournament in Hays, Perez said.

"If we would have that two-week window, and be promised that two-week window, we would never leave," he said.