The Big Sky Conference announced Thursday that five locations have been selected for site visits as the league considers permanent host sites for its men’s and women’s basketball championships.
One of them is a combined entry from the Spokane Arena, which would host the men’s tournament, and Reese Court at Eastern Washington University, which would host the women’s event.
“It’s definitely exciting, and hearing that news was great,” said EWU athletic director Bill Chaves, who touted the Spokane’s past experience in hosting both men’s and women’s NCAA tournament events.
“Spokane, they really know how to put on events,” said Chaves, who is working with the Spokane Sports Commission.
Their combined bid entails a four-day, 12-team men’s event at the Arena. The first three rounds of a 12-team women’s tournament would be held simultaneously at Reese Court in Cheney, leading to a Saturday night championship doubleheader at the Arena.
The league has an eight-team format for both tournaments. Expansion to 12 is under consideration.
During the next few weeks, members of a special committee will take site visits to four other cities: Billings (Rimrock Auto Arena); Missoula, (Dahlberg Arena); Reno, Nevada, (Reno Events Center); and Ogden, Utah, (Dee Events Center).
In paring the list to five, the conference eliminated bids from Flagstaff, Arizona, and Greeley/Loveland, Colorado.
Only Reno and Spokane/Cheney submitted bids to host the men’s and women’s championships. Billings and Ogden placed bids to host the men’s championship, while Missoula presented a bid to host the women’s championship.
“All of the bids were outstanding,” Big Sky deputy commissioner Ron Loghry said. “The committee faced a daunting task of sifting through all of the data, and ranking the potential sites. Our next step is to visit these cities and venues, and we’re excited to begin that process soon.”
For more than two decades, Big Sky Conference men’s and women’s championships have been hosted by the regular-season champion. Last fall, the Big Sky Conference began soliciting bids to find predetermined locations for the championships beginning in the spring of 2016.
A committee consisting of a university president, a faculty athletic representative, a senior women’s administrator, two athletics directors, an outside consultant, and two members of the conference staff recently reviewed and ranked bids submitted by cities and arenas.
None of the committee members is associated with schools and cities involved in the bidding process, Loghry said.
The conference planned to announce a final decision next month, during the basketball tournaments on March 12-14. That has been pushed back to April, to give the committee enough time to visit the sites and evaluate the finalists.
A final site must be reviewed by league presidents, who reserve the right to deny all of the bids and keep the current championship structure in place.
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