NAIA extends contract to keep tournament at Municipal through 2013

College basketball’s oldest postseason tournament will continue in Kansas City for at least another four years.

The NAIA on Monday announced three-year extensions with Buffalo Funds to continue title sponsorship of the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship with the city of Kansas City for the tournament to remain at Municipal Auditorium through 2013.

The NAIA Tournament, which was founded by Dr. James Naismith in 1937, has been staged in Kansas City for all but seven years when it was in Tulsa, Okla., during 1994-2001.

Since its return to Kansas City in 2002, the tournament has attracted nearly 40,000 fans during a six-day period each year and has generated an annual economic impact of more than $2.5 million.

The average attendance of about 4,000 per session might seem to be a better fit for the new Independence Events Center, which has a seating capacity of 5,800, but the NAIA did not consider moving the tournament from 9,000-seat Municipal, which has easy access to adjacent downtown hotels and restaurants for teams and their fans.

“Municipal is where we need to be,” said NAIA president and CEO Jim Carr. “With this extension, it’s safe to say the NAIA basketball tournament is Kansas City’s tournament.”

Oscar McGaskey, the city’s executive director of Convention and Entertainment, which includes Municipal, emphasized the tournament’s importance to Kansas City.

“This is good for Kansas City,” McGaskey said. “We enjoy the partnership with the NAIA. They bring a lot of room nights to downtown and the hotels, but they also bring a lot of folks to the Power and Light District, and those are positive things they bring to Kansas City. I’m excited we were able to extend the lease with the NAIA and I’m looking forward to an even longer lease when that expires.”

The 2009 tournament, which included Heart of America teams Mid-America Nazarene and William Jewell for the first time, drew 38,502, an increase of 1,472 compared to 2008.

“We anticipate our attendance this year will top 40,000 and move this tournament forward,” said tournament director John McCarthy. “The momentum we got last year, while we don’t know whether Mid-America or Central Methodist or William Jewell is going to do as well as they did last year, what’s nice is all those people who did come, really enjoyed their experience and are likely to come back again next year.”

The 73rd NAIA Tournament is scheduled for March 17-23.