Friday, June 4, 2010

This post (not) brought to you by the Big 12 Conference

The Big 12 announced its new host cities for future tournaments and the results are in: OKC has officially gotten the shaft. This will be a real brief post, and as much as I would like to spend hours going through data and old news clippings pulling out attendance figures from past times OKC has hosted the basketball tournament, let me just say that OKC has never done a bad job of hosting the Big 12 basketball tournament. The event, which was a huge boon for downtown the two times we were lucky enough to host it, was perhaps the closest we will ever be to hosting big time sports tournaments because the future prognosis does not look good for OKC.

The bright news is that we have secured the Big 12 baseball tourney for 5 more years or so. Realistically though, there was no competition. Omaha, Tulsa, and Austin wanted it..but neither have the same baseball setup in Bricktown that fans from every school have absolutely loved for the last ten years or so. Nobody can come close to competing for that event which honestly is not nearly as big an event as basketball and football, and we're obviously never going to host the football championship for lack of an NFL stadium anywhere in Central Oklahoma.

But basketball is the prize we should have had our eyes on and we absolutely blew it. Because of how successful both of our ventures with the tourney were, it is a shame to settle for not hosting this event. Yes, KC was also good. But there are advantages to OKC also that should have kept us in the running and the event should have been split between the two cities. Let me emphasize: MAJOR loss. I know right now, given the general euphoria in this city, it's hard to comprehend the idea of a major loss, but this is it. Perhaps the impact is lessened by our ability to flirt with hosting an endless array of big events at once, from the Grand Prix idea, to the rowing, to other sports tourneys, and so on--but the PRIZE out of any event we could possibly host was the Big 12 Basketball Tourney and we lost out. We need to examine ourselves as a city and discover what it is that we lack and how we can better position ourselves to host major "Big League City" events like this, which would put us on a map of other cities that host conference tourneys like Seattle, Atlanta, and NYC.

But maybe it doesn't even matter and we're destined to lose relevance in hosting conference events anyway. Consider that the Big 12 is looking less and less likely to exist in a few years and the surfacing of reports today that the Pac 10 has extended invitations to 6 Big 12 teams, with another two having known (well-publicized) flirtations with the Big Ten. If the Oklahoma schools end up in the SEC, OKC isn't going to have any events to host. The SEC has anchored EVERY conference tourney in Atlanta and that won't ever change. If the Oklahoma schools end up in a "Pac 16" conference as is appearing very possible, it's going to be a hard sell for OKC to host events that fans will travel to. In fact anywhere you host a tourney in a "Pac 16" conference it's going to be difficult for fans in Texas or in California. Consider the future and the trends that appear to be emerging.. what does OKC stand to get out of all of this?

Doesn't look good in terms of hosting major events at the Ford Center. And also consider this, and this is where the impact from conference realignment could be HUGE for downtown OKC: If the primary reason for keeping the Cox Center and especially its arena in tact was the preservation of the setup with two arenas "48 steps" apart, what advantage does that extend us in the future? Is there a reason to keep that setup if we are no longer competing for men's and women's tourneys across the street from each other? That land could be prime real estate, and a huge money maker for OKC, especially if anything in MAPS 3 has cost overruns beyond $17 mil. The benefit to the general public who's not concerned with the city coffers however would be in the form of possible breaking the site back up into smaller blocks and reinstating urban infill on that site, which would much better incorporate the east edge of the Myriad Gardens.

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