The Big Sky Conference announced Monday that it will move its postseason basketball championship tournament from Reno, Nevada to Boise, Idaho after the 2017-18 season.
After three years in the Reno Event Center, the Big Sky Conference reached another three-year agreement with CenturyLink Arena, located in downtown Boise. This change of location will cut Idaho State’s travel time in half. Other rumored locations for the tournament included Las Vegas, Billings, Montana, Bozeman, Montana and Salt Lake City, Utah.
“It’s easier to get to for at least four or five teams,” said Idaho State women’s basketball coach Seton Sobolewski.
The new location will cut down on travel time for seven of the Big Sky’s 12 basketball teams. Southern Utah will remain around an eight-hour driving distance while Northern Arizona and Sacramento State will see its travel time increase. The new location will not affect North Dakota who is leaving for the Summit League at the end of the year.
“The travel is not as hard and after you play a full-season,” said Idaho State head men’s basketball coach Bill Evans. “The little, hop, skip and a jump is a plus for us.”
Sobolewski said the conference moved the tournament to Boise not because of a lack of attendance but because it made more financial sense.
The women’s championship game last year between Montana State and Idaho State saw an attendance of 919 while the men’s championship game between North Dakota and Weber State saw an attendance of 2,225. The previous season, the championship games saw a combined attendance of 3,606.
“I don’t think it was an attendance issue at all,” Sobolewski said. “I think it was more of a financial decision. They did a pretty wide spread search and I think Boise ended up being the best deal with the most central location.”
Sobolewski said that CenturyLink Arena will also serve as a better facility to host a basketball tournament.
“Reno is nice, but it is a multipurpose facility instead of an actual sports arena,” he said.
Most American cities that have both NHL and NBA teams share an arena, meaning they are built to easily transition between a hockey rink and a basketball floor. Although Boise does not have an NHL team, CenturyLink Arena is home to the ECHL’s minor-league hockey team, the Idaho Steelheads. CenturyLink Arena has a capacity of 5,300 for basketball games while the Reno Event Center has capacity of 7,500.
The women’s basketball team advanced to the conference championship game in both years the tournament was held in Reno. The team holds a 6-2 record and has made runs to the championship game as a nine and a six-seed.
“We’ll end up missing it,” Sobolewski said. “Reno has been really good to us. I think we had success there because we had some good teams and we peaked at the right time. We had some injuries and people came back at the right time. All of those things factor into it.”