C-U will bid to host IHSA state basketball finals

Published 06/17 2014 04:32PM

Updated 06/17 2014 10:43PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The City of Champaign and the University of Illinois will work together to bring the IHSA state basketball tournament back to Champaign.  The IHSA opened up the bidding Monday for the tournaments beginning with the 2015-16 season and running through the 2019-20 season.  Jayne DeLuce, President and CEO of Visit Champaign County, says they're considering bidding on both the boys and girls tournaments, but will definitely bid on at least one.  The U of I hosted the boys state tournament for 77 years before losing it to Peoria after the 1995 season.  It has been in Peoria ever since.

DeLuce plans to work this summer with a committee that will include administrators from the U of I and local business leaders to help prepare the bid.  The U of I would be the primary partner, taking care of the venue, game day operations and concessions.  Visit Champaign County would be in charge of coordinating local business support and marketing the Champaign-Urbana area.

"Part of it is going to be figuring out what we think is needed - revisiting what had been done before and what made it so successful for hosting in Champaign 77 years prior to this, but also what is expected now," said DeLuce.  "I think state basketball is very different now that there are four classes instead of two."

The city plans to present it's bid this fall.  It'll be the first time in ten years C-U has been able to bid on the state tournaments.  Peoria has a free March Madness Experience expo in conjunction with the state finals.  It draws crowds to the Civic Center but in recent years has taken away some of the attendance from the basketball games itself.  The newly renovated State Farm Center won't have a facility large enough to hold a similar expo, and DeLuce says they won't try to emulate what Peoria is doing.

"The IHSA has indicated they really want to get back to the game of basketball," DeLuce said.  "What we really want to enhance is people actually going to the games, being able to do the experience right within State Farm Center."

One of the reasons the IHSA state finals left Champaign after 1995 was due to fan complaints about hotels and gas station price-gouging fans and forcing fans to stay multiple nights in their hotels.  DeLuce believes times have changed, and that won't be an issue this time around.

"I think what happened last time is there was a little bit of complacency.  We had hosted it for so many years, and I think people thought it would never leave.  We will work very closely with the hotels and gas stations."

It will take a significant financial bid to secure the boys state finals.  Peoria and it's local businesses committed more than $200,000 to land the tournament, with much of that money coming from private business.  DeLuce admits Champaign-Urbana likely doesn't have those types of businesses willing to give large sums of money, saying it'll be more of a "grassroots" movement.

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