The WIAA state girls basketball tournament has found a home in the Green Bay area for the next seven years.
The 11-person WIAA Board of Control on Friday voted unanimously to begin negotiations on a long-term agreement with PMI Entertainment Group to keep the girls tournament at the Resch Center through 2020.
While PMI and the WIAA still need to formally sign an agreement, neither PMI president Ken Wachter nor WIAA executive director Dave Anderson have any doubt the sides will come to terms.
“I just think it’s a matter of crossing some T’s and dotting some I’s and moving forward and extending what we have now in place until 2020,” Wachter said.
Last year the WIAA signed a two-year agreement with PMI to hold the tournament at the Resch Center in 2013 and 2014. The Resch debut in March produced a 31 percent increase in attendance from the previous year in Madison and no doubt impressed the WIAA.
“The fact it was unanimous is a very strong endorsement that this was a nice fit and a great event,” Anderson said. “I think the level of support is indicative of the very many positives we left Green Bay feeling but also had reinforced in the couple of months since.”
Anderson will handle negotiations on the WIAA’s behalf and said he hopes to begin talks with Wachter and PMI as soon as Friday night. But he cautioned the start of the WIAA spring state championship season and offseason scheduling could delay a formal agreement until August or September.
Anderson said he also would like to extend the contract of the girls state volleyball tournament at the Resch Center through 2020. The current deal runs through 2014.
PMI has hosted the volleyball tournament at the Resch Center since 2002, which helped create discussions with the WIAA about moving the girls basketball tournament there.
PMI and WIAA officials expressed interest in merging the basketball and volleyball agreements into one standard deal.
“It had always been a stand-alone agreement,” Anderson said. “As we go forward, what I’d like to try to engage in is, let’s tear up that girls volleyball (agreement).
“If we’re going to spend time and talk about it and we really want to build a partnership, a relationship, let’s look at these things a little bit differently and let’s look at these girls events as destination events for girls championships. If they are willing, let’s look at putting them together in an agreement that would see them both there through 2020.”
The three-day girls basketball tournament held March 14-16 at the Resch featured three area teams capturing state championships — Algoma, Kewaunee and Green Bay Notre Dame. Attendance rose to 39,731, compared to a 27-year-low 30,353 last year at the Kohl Center in Madison.
The Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitor’s Bureau estimated earlier this year that the tournament would generate a $3 million economic impact.
PMI teamed with the Green Bay Packers, who provided tours of Lambeau Field for qualifying teams and pregame video packages that played throughout the tournament.
“The winners in this are really the girls in the long run because we believe the Brown County (Arena) and Resch Center offers the best light for the girls’ fit,” said PMI chief operating officer Cora Haltaufderheid, who led PMI’s bid for the event.
“You have one time to make a first impression and the community, the hotels holding their prices, the Packers coming through with video clips and tours, and PMI rolling out the red carpet and making sure we had the building right and facilities right.”
Until the move to the Green Bay area in March, the girls state tournament was held in Madison every year since its inception in 1976. But when the WIAA moved the tournament from the UW Field House to the Kohl Center in 1998, the event hasn’t been held at the same venue for more than four consecutive years because of conflicts with UW sporting events.
The tournament was held at the Field House in 1999, 2000 and 2002 and was moved to Madison’s Alliant Energy Center from 2006 to 2009.
PMI officials said adding the girls tournament to its schedule through the end of the decade wouldn’t pose any scheduling conflicts.
De Pere girls basketball coach Kelly McNiff said she is glad the WIAA has settled on a long-term location for the state tournament.
“Girls basketball does need a home,” said McNiff, who led the Redbirds to the Division 1 state title in 2012. “It’s been talked about a lot how often the girls tournament has moved the last decade, different venues we’ve played in. It really seemed like it was a weekend that was dedicated to the girls and basketball.
“A couple years down the road, I think people will forget about the tournament being in Madison and Green Bay will really feel like home for girls basketball.”
The WIAA on Friday also extended its agreement to play the state baseball tournament at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute through 2020.
There is an agreement in place to play the state boys basketball tournament at the Kohl Center through 2020.