The Missouri Valley Conference is moving its women’s basketball tournament to Moline, Ill., the conference announced Thursday.
Starting in 2016, the tournament will be held at the 12,000-seat iWireless Center. The tournament will remain there through 2018, with a conference option for 2019 and 2020.
“If we’re going to keep it a neutral site, we’ve got to find a community that is going to go out and sell it and has the desire and will and want to do that,” WSU senior associate athletic director Becky Endicott said. “I like the facility. They can cordon off the upper bowl and it makes for a more intimate environment.”
The Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., has held the tournament since 2008, when the MVC decided to try a neutral site instead of using campus arenas. St. Charles and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also submitted bids for the tournament.
“Coming to the Quad Cities has felt like moving our family into a brand-new house in a wonderful neighborhood,” said senior associate commissioner Patty Viverito in a news conference at the iWireless Center.
Endicott did not tour the arena earlier this spring with other MVC officials, but she has attended events there. She said fans will find the location closer to hotels and restaurants than the arena in St. Charles.
The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau played an important role in landing the 10-team tournament. The five-city area along the Mississippi River consists of Moline, East Moline, Rock Island, Ill., and Iowa cities Davenport and Bettendorf for a population of around 425,000.
“Getting any kind of tournament like that to be successful at a neutral site, you have to get some kind of agency or group to back it in the community,” Endicott said. “St. Charles just really didn’t do that. I think they’ll do a good job promoting it (in the Quad Cities).”
The move adds driving time for Wichita State fans.
Moline is 563 miles from Wichita, 143 more than the drive to St. Charles. One of Moline’s major selling points is the fact it is within 200 miles of Bradley, Illinois State, Drake, Loyola and Northern Iowa. WSU has won the past two MVC tournaments.
“It is going to be farther for Wichita State fans,” Endicott said. “We’ve had a pretty good following in St. Charles and I think our fans will continue to make that trip.”
In March, the WSU-Drake championship game drew an announced crowd of 1,191 in St. Charles. The biggest crowd was 1,667 for WSU’s semifinal game against Illinois State. In 2013, the championship game between WSU and Illinois State drew 1,322. The semifinals matching WSU and Northern Iowa and Illinois State against Creighton drew 1,697.