Written by Corbett Smith
UIL might move state hoops tourneys; AAC among venues being considered
Two centerpieces of the University Interscholastic League’s athletic schedule – the boys and girls state basketball tournaments – could be on the move, possibly to Dallas.
Responding to concerns about hotel availability and rising hotel prices across the Austin area in early March, the UIL is contemplating moving the tournaments away from Texas’ Erwin Center, according to UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison.
The UIL has recently reached out to large multi-purpose and basketball arenas across the state, investigating their availability to host the tournaments – the finals of which happen on the first and second Saturdays in March.
Four venues with 15,000-seat-or-more capacity – the American Airlines Center, Houston’s Toyota Center and San Antonio’s Alamodome and AT&T Center – are currently in conversation with the league, Harrison said.
Over the past two decades, the South By Southwest music festival has expanded to add film and interactive elements, swelling the number of attendees to Austin over the first few weeks in March. Harrison said that the league had broached the idea of moving from the Erwin Center two years ago, but a chorus of complaints about this year’s tournaments motivated the UIL to actively explore alternatives.
Currently, the UIL hosts two athletic championships exclusively outside of the Austin area: football, which has been held at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium since becoming a single-site event in 2010; and volleyball, which moved to Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center in 2013 because of hotel concerns surrounding a new Formula 1 race in the Austin area.
“We’re not anxious to move these events,” Harrison said. “But at the same time, the teams that get there deserve the best state-championship experience we can offer. And their fans, parents and schools deserve that.”
Harrison said that the league is looking at a venue change, as opposed to adjusting the tournament dates, because there are logistical problems with tinkering with the UIL’s busy sports schedule. Bumping the tournament into February would push it too close to the state-championship football weekend, and drawing it out until mid-March would conflict with spring sports, as well as creep into dates that these potential venues might use for post-season conference or NCAA tournament events.
Of the possible venues, all but the Alamodome will have to work around busy NBA schedules. The AAC will have the added hurdle of the Dallas Stars’ schedule.
Despite the initial concerns, the Erwin Center isn’t out of the running. Harrison said that the University of Texas – host of the boys tournament since 1921 – has been working with the City of Austin for solutions to the myriad of hotel problems, with athletic director Steve Patterson personally involved in the discussions.
Harrison expects several options to be presented to the UIL’s Legislative Council during their upcoming meeting, June 10-11. Any change would be for the upcoming 2014-15 basketball season.