This weekend’s state high school basketball championships are the last in Springfield for a while
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - This weekend marks the end of two-weeks of state high school basketball championships at Missouri State University as Classes 1-3 were held last week and Classes 4-6 are going on through Saturday (March 18).
But it also marks the end of the event taking place in Springfield for at least five years after Columbia regained its role as the host after losing it in 2017.
The bids to host the Show-Me Showdown state high school basketball championships are determined every five years and much of the time since the event first started in 1933, Columbia has been the host city. After all it is centrally-located to all four corners of the state and the Missouri State High School Activities Association, which overseas the tournament, is located there. The University of Missouri has also played a key role in keeping the event there with multiple sites (Mizzou Arena and the Hearnes Center) and its high-profile as the state’s flagship university.
Over the years though the tournament has been moved from time-to-time with Springfield serving as host during the late 1980′s and early 1990′s and then acquiring the rights to the event with a bid of $80,000 annually for the last five years. The addition of the Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly known as JQH Arena) to go along with Hammons Center gave Missouri State the multiple sites needed as a host and the fact that those gyms are connected to each other while Mizzou Arena and Hearnes are not was another positive factor.
But the real difference in the past was that the Springfield Sports Commission and the Convention and Visitors Bureau put forth a vigilant effort to involve local businesses and civic groups in providing sponsorship for the tournament.
And when it came time to put up a bid for the next five years starting next season, Springfield upped its bid to $100,000 annually.
Yet Columbia won.
“In sum, Columbia’s bid was probably about $30,000 more than what we bid,” said Lance Kettering, the Executive Director of the Springfield Sports Commission. “And another factor is that the MSHSAA staff live in Columbia so they don’t have those hotel costs when they host an event there. That’s probably another $20,000 or so. So when you take those numbers and multiply them by five years that is a sizeable amount.”
And as it turns out, Columbia’s victory turned out to be a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.
“One of the factors that’s really the same one that brought the event to Springfield from Columbia, is community involvement,” explained Jason West, the MSHSAA Communications Director. “Five years ago when we went through this process the Springfield community really helped out with some of the sponsorships that helped pay those bills. This time Columbia learned that lesson and did the same thing that Springfield did to them. They went out, got community involvement and raised funds that helped pay for rental fees and other things we would need at the university.”
“I was aware that they created a sports commission shortly after they lost the bid last time and worked really hard on getting it back,” said Bill Hobbs, a former member of the Springfield Sports Commission and Operations Manager for Elliott Lodging.
Hobbs’ reaction is typical of other Springfield business leaders in that losing the bid is not just about community pride but also about economic impact.
“It’s sad,” he said. “It’s been a blessing for us because we have 14 hotels in town and anytime you can improve what we call a ‘slower month’ through the winter, like March, it’s always an economic boom to us.”
“We ran some numbers and we can conservatively estimate $3.1 million in economic spending,” Kettering added in putting a number on the money brought into Springfield every year from the state championship tournament.
So Springfield will be challenging Columbia and any other suitors for the rights again in 2028.
“Just tell ‘em to be prepared five years from now,” Hobbs said with a grin.
And as for MSHSAA’s advice to Springfield in getting the tournament back?
“Springfield is a great location for high school sports,” West said. “And maintaining that community involvement has really helped. That’s basically what has won the bid the last few times. So it’s important to not get complacent and think, ‘Oh they’ll never leave.’ Columbia certainly learned that lesson five years ago and taken it to heart. And I think Springfield can certainly do that again.”
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