The Road to Reno has reached a dead end for the Big Sky Conference.
Beginning in 2018-19, the new destination is CenturyLink Arena in Boise. The conference is expected to formally announce the move early next week, but news of the change broke late Tuesday night.
That’s when sources from five schools confirmed the move to Skyline Sports. The contract with CenturyLink Arena is expected to last three years, the same as the current deal with the Reno Sparks Visitors and Convention Authority.
Contacted Wednesday, officials from the conference decline comment on the reported move, as did Eastern Washington athletic director Bill Chaves.
For almost four decades, from 1976 to 2015, the Big Sky held its men’s basketball tournament at the home of the regular-season champion, and followed the same practice with the women’s event beginning in 1989.
After a bidding process that included Spokane and other cities, the conference relocated both events to the Reno Events Center for the 2015-16 season.
Coaches and players said they enjoyed the atmosphere of having all 24 teams stay a few blocks from the arena. But attendance was sparse, even for the championship games, and the arena was almost empty in the early rounds.
Speaking during 2017 event, Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams told The Spokesman-Review that she was cautiously optimistic about keeping the event in Reno.
“This being our second year of a neutral site, predetermined location, it’s been going very well,” Williams said.
“Going into Year 3 we want to build on that in terms of butts in seats,” Williams said. “We want to increase our attendance and create that great electric atmosphere for our student-athletes. We’ve had incredible games.”
The conference did its due diligence in the interim and “received several bids for potential host sites,” Big Sky communications director Jason Ashcraft told The Ogden Standard-Examiner in July.
CenturyLink Arena, which opened in 1997, holds 5,300 spectators for basketball. The multipurpose area can host ice hockey, boxing, concerts and basketball tournaments.
The venue has hosted the CBA All-Star game when the Idaho Stampede was still in the Continental Basketball Association.
The arena holds 39 corporate suites, 1,100 Club Premiere seats and standing room space for 200 people.