Representatives from each of the 15 schools that form the high school basketball 3rd Region gathered Wednesday morning at the Sportscenter to vote on the future site of the boys’ and girls’ regional basketball tournaments, but a vote failed to produce a full resolution.
A proposal by Spectra Venue Management to keep the tournament at the Sportscenter beyond this year’s tournament received eight of the 15 votes, but it didn’t garner the necessary 10 votes (two-thirds) to pass. Instead, the event could revert back to the model used prior to the Sportscenter becoming the host in 2012, in which all four district winners hosted first-round contests, with the semifinals and championship round held at one location on a year-by-year rotational basis among member schools.
All materials from the meeting will be sent to KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett, who is expected to deliver a recommendation in the coming weeks.
Schools in favor of keeping the event at the Sportscenter included Apollo, Daviess County, Frederick Fraize, McLean County, Muhlenberg County, Owensboro, Owensboro Catholic and Whitesville Trinity.
Opposing schools were Breckinridge County, Butler County, Edmonson County, Grayson County, Hancock County, Meade County and Ohio County.
OHS athletic director Todd Harper said he was disappointed with the 8-7 outcome.
“We’ve had good momentum the last eight years,” Harper said. “I think the Sportscenter has been an excellent venue, a great host. Everybody’s been happy with the result on the court.
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To not show full support for it is disappointing.”
Another proponent of extending the deal was Owensboro Catholic High School principal Gates Settle, who recalled trips to the Sportscenter when he played and later coached at McLean County High School.
“I’m obviously disappointed because I think this is the best facility to be able to host the regional tournaments,” Settle said, “because of all the things we discussed — the parking, the safety, just the comfortableness of it, being able to get your band and cheerleaders in. The environment, to me, is a big thing.”
Though Harper and Settle both recognize points from the other side of the argument, they don’t feel like it’s worth giving up an established relationship in favor of an unknown future.
“I also understand people’s concern with travel, but the thing I look at is you’re only gonna host once every 15 years,” Settle added. “There’s some concern about schools that don’t have the capability of hosting it. ... To me, it’s all about the facility and the venue and what you can host comfortably.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the commissioner says. Whatever he says is the final — if he tells us to work out a plan that everybody can agree to, which will be extremely difficult, or will he say this is the best place? I don’t know. It’s still up in the air.”
Another meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20 at Grayson County High School, where region representatives will further discuss attempts at a resolution. Ohio County High School principal Robby Asberry said he simply wants his colleagues to come with an open mind.
“I’m only asking for one out of every 15 years,” Asberry said of hosting the tournament in Hartford. “I’m not asking to monopolize it in any form. I think there are other schools that would like to bring that to their community, because it is a big deal to their communities. I just wish we could work it out. I’m optimistic. I think we can work it out, so hopefully that’s what’ll happen.
“I don’t believe that the commissioner will come in and dictate. I think good leadership is when you’re that close, just say, ‘Hey, you guys need to go hash this out, work it out.’ I believe that’s what he’ll say. ... I just wish we could come together and work out a compromise that’s good for everybody.”
If the tournament does leave the Sportscenter, it likely wouldn’t be for good. Host schools would still be able to hold the 3rd Region Tournament at the 5,000-seat venue if they choose, but they also run the risk of losing availability to other events without a contract in place.
“We love hosting the 3rd Region Tournament,” said Laura Alexander, general manager with Spectra Venue Management at the Owensboro Convention Center and Sportscenter. “From our standpoint, we are going to be booking other things during that week. It is the most sought-after week for the entire year, just because it’s the first week of March.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but it was expected. We knew there was a core group that always wanted to go back to the schools. We’ll be open toward working with them in the future.”
For now, Harper noted, everything remains undecided.
“I truly feel that everybody thinks that they’re doing the best thing for their student-athletes,” he said. “We’ve just got to be able to get it right. We’ll see how it all plays out.
“We’re gonna play basketball no matter where. If it’s here or Grayson County or Legion Park, we’ll play somewhere and do the best we can.”