Spokane is back in the NCAA loop – and back in the March Madness business.
The city and Washington State University will host first and second-round games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2007 at the Spokane Arena, reprising the partnership that produced a smash success with the same event in 2003.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced host sites for the 2007 and 2008 men’s tournament late Thursday afternoon, catching both Arena and WSU staffers a little off-guard – but obviously elated.
“This is a big, big deal – again,” said Kevin Twohig, general manager of the Arena and executive director of the Spokane Public Facilities District. “And it’s great news for Spokane.”
And it means the city will host two of the nation’s premier sporting events within a two-month span that year.
Last February, the city was awarded the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which will run Jan. 21-27. The NCAA event will move in for four days of practices and games the third week of March.
It’s the fourth time WSU and Spokane have teamed up to land an NCAA championship event – and the first three have been unqualified hits.
But Twohig admitted that he was apprehensive whether Spokane was still on the NCAA’s radar.
“The NCAA has gone to so many big, big buildings for this event,” he said. “I was a little concerned whether they were still considering ‘secondary’ markets, but obviously they’ve been happy with how Spokane has performed in hosting before.”
With a seating capacity of a little over 11,000 for NCAA Tournament events – media seating and other considerations cut into the normal 12,000-plus basketball seats – the Arena remains one of the smallest sites for the men’s event.
Joining Spokane as first- and second-round sites in 2007 will be Buffalo, Sacramento, Chicago, New Orleans, Lexington, Ky., Columbus, Ohio, and Winston-Salem, N.C. Of those sites, Winston-Salem’s Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum is the next smallest, with a basketball capacity of 14,665.
WSU and the Arena submitted their bid for the event last April.