High school basketball in Illinois has always been a popular spectator sport. But you might not know that from the recent state tournaments.
Held now in Peoria at Carver Arena, the Illinois High School Association Boy’s Tournament had more empty seats than ones filled.
Ryan Mahan covers Central State Eight sports for the State Journal-Register. He wrote about the tournament and pointed out “Big crowds are the exception, not the rule, anymore.”
The event had been held in Champaign-Urbana.
So is Peoria the problem? “It’s a nice facility. But I don’t know if kids grow up playing on the Bradley University floor,” Mahan said. “Before they moved it to Peoria, they had the iconic Fighting Illini floor.”
Mahan said there is discussion of moving at least some of the tournament closer to where more people are located, the Chicago area. Other ideas involve doing away with Super Sectionals and adding games at state. And, maybe, having all 4 classes play their tournament the same weekend.
And then there are those who complain about the shift to 4 classes, based on enrollment size. But Mahan points out that won’t be changing.
Peoria is under contract to host the event through 2020. Mahan said the city wants to keep it.
“The reason it hasn’t moved is because no one has wowed the IHSA with a better offer for hosting it. “If you’re not going to have people step up to the plate and be the host that Peoria is, then you have to find a way to make Peoria work,” Mahan said.