Wednesday, May 29, 2013

MAAC tournament back to Albany 2015-17

ALBANY – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball is coming back to Albany.

On Tuesday, the MAAC Council of Presidents voted unanimously to return the league’s men’s and women’s postseason tournaments to the Times Union Center in 2015, for a three-year stay.

“We’re going to flourish as a school, as the league flourishes,” said Siena President Fr. Kevin Mullen, who was delighted with the decision to return to the Capital District.

Since the tournament departed Albany in 2011, the attendance figures have suffered significantly. In 2010, a record crowd of 53,569 crowd watched Siena capture its third consecutive tournament title. In the three years following, the total crowd has been just 55,261. Last year, at the MassMutual Center, in Springfield, Mass., the tournament drew just 14,394 fans, the lowest number in three decades.

“The bigger question is – do MAAC fans travel?,” said MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor. “They travel to here, as well as anywhere.”

The tournament will still be held in Springfield, as planned, in 2014, but then will be held at Times Union Center from 2015-17.

“It’s huge,” said Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber. It’s enormous.”

Albany was one of two finalists, along with Bridgeport, Conn., which hosted in 2011. The other two proposals came from Springfield and the Izod Center, in the Meadowlands.

The arena has guaranteed $250,000 per year to the MAAC, a number much smaller than the millions the tournament has produced for the city in previous years.

The city of Albany has hosted 15 of the past 24 tournaments, dating back to 1990. Siena has won the tournament four times when it has been played on its home floor. Even when Siena wasn’t strong, the tournament has still produced sufficient attendance totals.

“The Capital Region fans have proven they will come out and watch college basketball,” said Siena Athletics Director John D’Argenio.  

The biggest reason the league decided to leave in Albany was the idea of playing on a neutral court, but as the league found out, that came at the cost of having more fans in the building.

“It hasn’t worked particularly well,” said Ensor.  

Only three times has the overall attendance of the league tournament topped 50,000, and all three of those came in Albany (2010, 2009, 2000).

“There is something special about this city and it didn’t take me long to realize that,” said Siena women’s basketball coach Ali Jaques.

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