Officials still see future for Kentucky-Indiana All-Stars

Officials still see future for Kentucky-Indiana All-Stars

News

Officials still see future for Kentucky-Indiana All-Stars

By

Game directors on both sides of the Ohio River admit the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star basketball classic may never return to its glory days of 15,000 fans.

But after the states wrapped up their 75th annual showcase last weekend, both Brian Miller of Kentucky and Charlie Hall of Indiana say continuing the series is worthwhile.

“We made $41,000 for charity (in Indiana),” Hall said. “That’s a pretty good summer all-star game in 2015. It wouldn’t have been in 1985. … I’m not sure we’re going back to 10,000 fans, but if we can stay around 6,000 or 7,000 a year, I don’t think anybody in either state would think that’s a bad thing.”

Attendance was 6,533 – the largest crowd in 10 years – on Saturday at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse as Indiana completed its weekend sweep of Kentucky.

But much of the perceived slump of the series has come from attendance numbers on the Kentucky side. A total of 834 fans attended Friday’s games at Transylvania University’s Beck Center in Lexington.

Miller is the president of the Bluegrass Sports Commission, which just finished the second of a three-year deal with the Lions Eye Foundation to oversee the games in Kentucky. Proceeds from the Kentucky games go to the Lions Eye Foundation and from the Indiana games to the National Guard, Indiana Basketball Coaches Association and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

Miller noted the games in Kentucky lost $7,000 last year but turned a $3,000 profit this year.

“If how we’re judged as a success is based on attendance, we’re never going to win that battle playing in a 1,200-seat gym at Transylvania,” Miller said. “We’re doomed from the start. … The last few years we lost money, and the game made money this year. Second, we wanted to give the kids a great experience as a Kentucky All-Star … and we had a very successful week from that perspective.”

Hall said Indiana officials have found success with several promotions after seeing attendance in Indianapolis dip to 5,091 in 2008.

One was to start a game-day shootout, in which high school teams with All-Stars are invited to Indianapolis to play games during the morning and then attend the game at night. Hall said the event has grown from 24 schools in 2008 to 86 on Saturday.

“The logic was to come on to Indianapolis, have next year’s teams go at it and then go down and watch their former teammate as an All-Star play against Kentucky,” Hall said. “That was very popular.”

While the idea of a shootout hasn’t gained much traction in Kentucky, Miller said promoters need to be more aggressive in targeting high school teams and players and coaches from past All-Star games.

“I’m not sure we did a great job of getting the word out,” Miller said. “We’re definitely going to have some conversations about the future of the game.”

Miller said Kentucky officials are open to moving the game to April or May, hoping to take advantage of a leftover buzz from the Sweet 16 and the fact that All-Stars still are in school and not obligated to their future colleges.

Kentucky Mr. Basketball Camron Justice missed both games last weekend because Vanderbilt wouldn’t release him to play, and Trinity product Raymond Spalding missed Friday’s game because of obligations at the University of Louisville. Spalding did play Saturday. Indiana’s Ryan Fazekas also missed the games because of obligations at Providence College.

Hall is against moving the games from June, mostly because of the success of Indiana’s junior-senior All-Star games. Kentucky scrapped its junior All-Star teams this year. Hall said players also would have conflicts with AAU events during April and May.

“We raise close to $20,000 with the junior-senior games … and we couldn’t put those together during the middle of the week during April,” Hall said. “To me (moving the games) is another stab at a quick fix.”

Miller said officials are considering moving the Kentucky game from Transylvania next June. NCAA rules prohibit high school all-star games from being played in college arenas, eliminating Rupp Arena and the KFC Yum! Center as options. Miller said possible sites include Louisville’s Freedom Hall, the Frankfort Convention Center, Pikeville’s Eastern Kentucky Expo Center, the Owensboro Sportscenter and the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena in Lexington.

Miller said finding a title sponsor also is a goal. Indiana has one in Best Choice Fieldhouse. Hall said the title sponsor allows Indiana to offer tickets ranging from $5 to $18. Tickets for the games at Transylvania were $25.

“Your primary fan base is going to be relatives, friends and family of the participants when your tickets are $25,” Hall said. “An average basketball fan with a family of two or three kids can’t afford a hundred-plus dollars to come to a game where they don’t have a dog in the fight. …

“If you can find a title sponsor that will underwrite some of it, then you’re more likely to lower those ticket prices to $10 a game and get more people in there.”

Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports