Special Olympics delays state tourney one week
By RANDY GONZALES
When Fort Hays State University was in position to possibly play host to an NCAA Division II basketball regional in past years, it was the Class 1A state basketball tournament that was moved to accommodate the Tigers, just in case.
This time, it's the annual Special Olympics of Kansas basketball tournament that's on the move. The tournament, which was scheduled for March 14 to 16, has been moved to March 21 to 23.
"It wasn't as big of an issue as you would have thought because all of the facilities were able to work with us," said Tim Rehmer, senior vice president of sports for Special Olympics of Kansas.
Reservations already were made at local motels. With nothing going on the following weekend, the reservations simply were moved back a week, he said.
The only hitch was the gym at Hays High School, where a dance took place, was booked. Thomas More Prep-Marian offered to help, and the dance will go on.
Rehmer said Special Olympics of Kansas was contacted by FHSU in early January about the possible conflict.
"We were given plenty of notice by Fort Hays State and (athletic director) Curtis Hammeke," Rehmer said. "He was very open in letting us know that here's what could happen.
"He basically left it up to us; he was letting us know this could happen, Fort Hays could end up hosting a men's and women's NCAA regionals."
It didn't take long for Special Olympics of Kansas to make a decision.
"We kicked it around here, decided it was just as easy for us to go ahead and move, to avoid the situation, as opposed to not thinking about it and finding out Feb. 28 (FHSU was hosting)," Rehmer said. "I hope it works out that they end up hosting an NCAA regional."
Rehmer said early in the decision-making process, it was questioned whether they should return to Hays for a 37th year.
"That was the least of our concerns," Rehmer said. "Of course, we were coming to Hays.
"The support we've received for 37 years has been unreal, especially our relationship with the university and the city."
For the basketball tournament, cheerleading competition and individual skills competition, five gyms at FHSU are used, as well as gyms from Hays High School and Hays Recreation Commission -- all free of charge. Last year, 1,290 athletes competed, forming 125 teams and 18 cheerleading squads. As well, 382 coaches accompanied teams to the tournament.
"We don't see leaving Hays anytime soon," Rehmer said.
With the move, the tourney starts at the end of spring break. There could be a shortage of student volunteers.
"This isn't any problem we haven't dealt with before," Rehmer said.
To volunteer for this year's tournament, contact Terri Price at (913) 236-9290, Ext. 106.