The Our Lady of Lourdes High School boys basketball team is getting ready for their first appearance in the state boys basketball final four.
But, the state boys basketball final four is getting ready for its own first appearance in Binghamton.
The annual tournament, arguably the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s marquee event, had been held in Glens Falls every season since 1981. But, this year the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton will host 15 games across five enrollment classifications, beginning at 10 a.m. Friday and ending about 4 p.m. Sunday.
Lourdes, the Section 1 Class A champion, will take on Section 11’s Southampton at 10:45 a.m. Saturday in the Class A semifinals. The winner advances to the noon, Sunday final, against the winner of the other semifinal between Section 5’s Irondequoit and Section 3’s Jamesville-DeWitt.
This weekend will mark the first of a three-year agreement to host the event in Broome County. Accompanying the competition — which organizers envision attracting 20,000 or so spectators — will be a seven-digit boost to the local economy courtesy of visitors who’ll dine, lodge, fill gasoline tanks and recreate while supporting participants’ quest for state basketball supremacy.
“Part of the reason Glens Falls fought so hard for it is they estimated $1-2 million in revenue for the Glens Falls area that weekend,” said Ben Nelson, Bainbridge resident and Section 4’s interscholastic sports coordinator. He is the man most instrumental in landing the tournament in Binghamton.
“I think it could be more here. I think the first time, they’re going to come and stay. I just think there are going to be more people here than there were up there.”
The Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau estimated that the Feb. 24-25 NYSPHSAA wrestling championships at Times Union Center generated at least $1.3 million in spending.
“The basketball championship is more popular,” said Mike Andrew, retired Chenango Valley High School educator who serves as the basketball tourney’s overseer of financial matters. “If they’re talking $1.3 million in the Albany area, you’re going to see at least that in Broome County.”
Section 4 was awarded the state tournament by virtue of a bid — 54 pages worth of presentation — that accentuated:
- A central location at the crossroads of major highways.
- A recently refurbished arena.
- Proximity of lodging and dining options to that arena.
- The community’s experience staging similarly significant athletic events — i.e., STOP-DWI Holiday Classic basketball tournament (1992-2014) and Empire State Games (2000, ’04 and ’08).
From a fiscal perspective, the bid featured rent-free use of the Arena and $30,000 to the NYSPHSAA for promotion of the event. The $30,000 was made possible by primary sponsors Mirabito Energy Products and Visions Federal Credit Union. Section 4 is responsible for approximately $20,000 more to cover up-front expenses such as signage around the community and in the Arena, apparel for volunteers and other items to enhance local visibility of the tournament.
The bid was presented by Nelson, assistant tournament director and Chenango Valley High School principal Terry Heller, and Judi Hess, Manager of Tourism and Special Events for the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce. Tournament organizers saluted the efforts of Anthony Capozzi, Arena manager at the time of the bid, for his efforts in securing use of the Arena rent-free.
An estimated 320 athletes will participate in the tournament, which will consist of semifinals and a championship game in each of classes AA (largest schools), A, B, C and D (smallest schools). Just which schools comprise that 20-team field will be one of the most significant variables driving attendance.
Lourdes is the only area team that reached the boys or girls basketball state semifinals this season. The girls event will be held in Troy this weekend. Lourdes earned its place by defeating Section 9 champion Poughkeepsie, 61-46, in the regional finals this past Saturday at Pace University.
Doug Kenyon was tournament director in Glens Falls from 1990 through last winter. He resides in the neighboring Town of Queensbury.
“Local teams certainly enhance the gate from a financial standpoint,” Kenyon said. “And the truth is, the private parochials do not draw the crowds that the public schools do. And a team that was coming there maybe for the first time or hadn’t been there in many years (will be a draw).”
Kenyon estimated 80 to 100 volunteers are required to properly staff the event, a figure in line with the 90 or so signed on for this weekend in Binghamton. They’ll be divided by task — scorebook, game clock, team hydration, cheerleader chief, officials greeters, etc. One provision sure to be especially appreciated will be team ambassadors, at least one volunteer per team who’ll be present to provide — you name it.
“Greet them, be there as a resource if they want to do anything,” Nelson said. “If they want to go to the mall, they’ll take them there. If they want to go to a movie, they can take them there.”
Team ambassadors will be overseen by Larry King, SUNY Broome men’s basketball coach and many-year team ambassador for the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic.
Another enticement of Section 4’s bid was United Health Services’ pledge to donate medical coverage in the form of a physician and trainers present for the entire tournament.
The Holiday Inn Binghamton will house visiting teams, while the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel will house state committee members, state office staff and visiting Basketball Coaches Association of New York members.
Section 4’s bid touted 75 restaurants and 21 hotels (2,200 rooms) within a 10-mile radius of the Arena, as well as 5,000 parking places within three blocks. Also cited were seven of the NYSPHSAA’s 11 geographic sections benefiting from more convenient travel distances.
Teams will have access to an assortment of nearby high school gymnasiums for off-day practice and game-day shoot-arounds.
Local organizers intend to jazz up game-day atmosphere relative to what was the standard in Glens Falls.
“I think you’ll see a lot more elaborate introductions,” Heller said. “When they walk in the building, their school flag color will be there. There’ll be a banner that, when they go home, we can mail it to them or they can take it with them. It’s going to be a memorable event for them. They’re going to be treated first-class.”
It was in December 2015 that Binghamton was awarded the tournament for 2017-19, concluding a complicated bidding process that came down to Section 4 versus Glens Falls. The latter did successfully bid to host the Federation Tournament of Champions over the same period.
The Federation tournament brings together NYSPHSAA champions along with champions from three other organizations to determine overall state supremacy. Participating in the Glens Falls Civic Center the week after NYSPHSAA championships will be boys and girls teams in classes AA, A and B.
“Certainly there is still a lot of disappointment that it was taken to Binghamton, there’s no question about that,” Kenyon said of the NYSPHSAA tournament. “Now more than ever with the tremendous improvements in the Glens Falls Civic Center — a premier scoreboard, new locker rooms. We did all the things that were concerns.
“But you know what? Life goes on. … It is what it is and we move on and hope we get the tournament back at some point. I don’t think there is any question at all that we will be re-bidding for the tournament to win it back.”
As will Section 4 — and perhaps others, so there is no saying where the 2020 tournament will be held.
“I think they’re going to say, ‘Binghamton was wonderful,’ ” Heller said. “However, if it comes down to Syracuse has a better bid? That’s the way it should be.”
Nelson added: “I personally like it moving, I think it should move. I think all sports should move. The NCAA Final Four goes to a different city every year, and that’s great, that’s part of the draw for that.”
Kevin Stevens writes for the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton. Follow him on Twitter: @PSBKevin.
State boys basketball final four schedule
Section of state precedes name of school
Saturday’s semifinals: 5-Fairport vs. 3-Liverpool, 12:45; 8-Westbury vs. 1-Mount Vernon, 2:30.
Sunday’s final: 2 p.m.
Saturday’s semifinals: 5-Irondequoit vs. 3-Jamesville-DeWitt, 9 a.m; 11-Southampton vs. 1-Our Lady of Lourdes, 10:45.
Sunday’s final: Noon.
Friday’s semifinals: 6-Health Sciences Charter vs. 10-Canton, 5:30; 3-Syracuse Westhill vs. 11-Center Moriches, 7:15.
Saturday’s final: 9 p.m.
Friday’s semifinals: 5-Northstar Christian Academy vs. 2-Lake George, 1:45; 4-Moravia vs. 11-Stony Brook, 3:30.
Saturday’s final: 7 p.m.
Friday’s semifinals: 6-Franklinville vs. 7-Moriah, 10 a.m.; 4-Newfield vs. 10-Harrisville, 11:45.
Saturday’s final: 5:15 p.m.
$10 per session (all games Friday; two sessions Saturday; all games Sunday). No re-entry will be permitted. Note: Tickets can be purchased online at nysphsaa.org/Resources/Championships; cash only at Arena ticket window.
Government Plaza (15 Isbell St.); Hawley Street Lot (9 Hawley St.); Water St. Ramp (181 Water St.); Metro Center Lot (14 Henry St.); State Street Ramp (132 State St.); on-street as available. Friday only: Parking at NYSEG Stadium with shuttle service available at 15-minute intervals.