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Big Sky Conference basketball tournament counting on central location in Boise

Eastern Washington and Idaho welcome the opportunity to play the Big Sky Conference tournament in Boise. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington and Idaho welcome the opportunity to play the Big Sky Conference tournament in Boise. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The Big Sky Conference announced on Monday that it will move its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to CenturyLink Arena in Boise.

“The Conference is excited to take our most recognizable championships to Boise, which lies right at the heart of Big Sky country,” commissioner Andrea Williams said on the floor of the arena.

Boise officials seemed just as excited about the three-year contract, which will run from 2019 through 2021.

The tournament has one more year in Reno, Nevada. Prior to that, the conference held its tournaments on the home court of the regular-season champion.

The event was something of an anticlimax, as the news of the move broke last week. However, that didn’t lessen the buzz in Boise.

“Boise is ready to welcome players and fans to our city,” said Carrie Westergard, executive director of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Monday’s event was long on praise for Boise but short on details about a process that began last summer as doubts grew about Reno’s sustainability.

After praising the conference and other candidates during a one-year bidding process, Williams didn’t mention what other cities were in contention.

Those cities may or may not have included Spokane – the conference refused to say.

“The conference can’t give out details of who bid,” said Big Sky official Jason Ashcraft, who handles media relations for men’s basketball.

Ultimately, Boise won out thanks to its central location for the far-flung conference. The move puts more schools within driving distance of the tournament.

“The city of Boise is filled with Big Sky sports fans and to bring the best of the best into our building for three years is only going to grow that fan base,” said Eric Trapp, general Manager of CenturyLink Arena.

That fan base is sure to include many fans from Idaho and Idaho State. In fact, Boise is an easier destination for most Big Sky fans than Reno, which offered plenty of night life and another amenities but little fan support.

“Obviously I’m very excited for it to be in Boise because that’s where the University of Idaho’s biggest alumni base is,” Idaho men’s coach Don Verlin said.

“Through the years we have been able to play a few games in Boise, but this will give us an opportunity to play there every year,” Verlin said.

The move also eases travel for fans from Eastern Washington.

“Now there’s the availability for many more schools to actually bus to the event,” Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves said.