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Wichita fails to land men’s NCAA Tournament bid for 2014 or 2015

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, at 11:34 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, at 8:13 p.m.

The competition to get into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is fierce. So is the competition to play host to one.

For the second time, Wichita State University and Intrust Bank Arena learned they had failed to land the tournament after bidding to host games in 2014 or 2015.

Disappointment – but determination – seemed to prevail at Monday’s news.

“There’s great competition. Unbelievable competition. It’s even greater than I thought it was. Did you see where the tournaments went to?” was the reaction of Bob Hanson of the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission.

According to the NCAA’s website, sites in 2014 for second- and third-round games are Buffalo, N.Y.; Milwaukee; Orlando, Fla.; Spokane, Wash.; Raleigh, N.C.; San Antonio; San Diego, and St. Louis. The Missouri Valley Conference will be the host for the games in St. Louis.

In 2015, sites for second- and third-round games are Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, and Seattle. Creighton University is the host for the games in Omaha.

“Those are big arenas. Those are big cities,” said Hanson, president and CEO of the sports commission.

But WSU, the arena and the commission will continue to try to get a men’s basketball tournament — one of the main goals in building a new downtown arena.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said arena general manager A.J. Boleski. “We feel like we put in a great bid.”

David Worlock, an NCAA official, said 53 cities bid on hosting games. Some bid for all levels of the tournament, including the regional finals and Final Four. He said 12 to 14 sites bid for the second and third rounds of the Midwest Regional.

Intrust Bank Arena also was unsuccessful bidder for NCAA Tournament games in 2012 and 2013. It did land NCAA women’s tournament games in March 2011.

That tournament was “supported very well by the community,” Boleski said. He added that the preseason game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks last month also drew a big crowd.

“We need to build our resume, so to speak, and continue to get better,” he said. “We owe it to the community to go after these events, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Bid factors

WSU athletic director Eric Sexton and Boleski said they don’t yet know what counted Wichita out. So far, all they’ve gotten is a phone call and generic form letter saying they weren’t chosen, they said.

The NCAA requires an arena with at least 10,000 seats for second- and third-round games. Intrust Bank Arena offers 15,000.

Asked whether the area should have built a bigger arena, Hanson said “If we want to build for an NCAA tournament, yes. For the size of our city, it’s a pretty good size. You can’t build a big home just for Easter or Christmas dinner, if you get what I mean.”

When the NCAA lowered the size requirement to 10,000 seats, Hanson said, “you’d think we’d have a good chance. I was disappointed. I just know there’s a lot of competition out there, and you have to be realistic about it.”

In addition to the arena, transportation also is a factor in the bid, as is the number of hotels near the tournament site, Hanson said.

Dan Gavitt, vice president of men’s basketball tournaments for the NCAA, said hotels and airline service are factors.

“They have to be quality and in proximity to the area,” Gavitt said of hotels. "Jet service and its frequency and availability can be a consideration. It’s not necessarily the top one."

Hanson said he thought Wichita was on the “borderline” about hotels.

“We can make it work,” he said. “They want full-service hotels. We might have to double up on a couple of them. They allowed us to do that for the women’s tournament.”

Sexton said those involved in the tournament bid will try to learn more about what Wichita needs to do to get the tournament.

“I would say we will do much more evaluation in the coming months to get more information so that we can continue to hone in on those things that are important so as we go forward, we can fine-tune our bids,” he said.

County reaction

Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh and chairman Tim Norton were on call Monday for a news conference if the news had been good. The county owns Intrust Bank Arena.

Boleski e-mailed them Monday morning saying there would be no news conference.

“I think we need to stay in the game and keep trying,” Unruh said later Monday. “I know we’ve got the facility, and I know we’ve got the desire.”

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who in his previous role with the Kansas Taxpayers Network opposed building the arena, said “the NCAA is missing a great opportunity.”

“The feedback I got from hosting the women’s tournament was, extremely positive,” he said. “We had great turnout even though we did not have an area team (in the tournament). I think if we’ve had an area team, the turnout would have even been better.”

Wichita ranked first in attendance among women’s sites without a home team in the field and eighth overall among the NCAA’s 16 subregional sites. Three games over two days drew about 9,000 fans.

“The fact that we got turned down is going to be disappointing,” Unruh said. “But we have to take a mature, long-range approach that this just isn’t going to happen overnight.”

Not getting the tournament is disappointing not only for the bid team but “also the citizens of the community,” Unruh said. “ We’re the owners of that thing, and that’s what everyone was hopeful for.

“The fact that we got turned down is going to be disappointing. But we have to take a mature, long-range approach that this just isn’t going to happen overnight.”

Contributing: Rick Plumlee of The Eagle | Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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