Possible SoCon finale

Possible SoCon finale

March 1st, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

The third and possibly final Southern Conference basketball tournament at McKenzie Arena will come at a discount.

This week's showcase originally was scheduled for last year as the second part of a two-year bid obtained by the Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee. That agreement was altered several weeks after the 2009 tournament in McKenzie, when league officials decided to move the 2010 event to Charlotte and bump Chattanooga back one year.

In making the switch, the conference knocked $50,000 off the Sports Committee's $125,000 guarantee to host this week's tournament.

"We would do that same arrangement if all those circumstances presented themselves again," SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said Monday. "We had a great level of cooperation from the people in Chattanooga. They understood what we were trying to do.

"We were concerned about the economy, and it gave us the chance to play the tournament at a very central location."

There was also the possibility of former Davidson guard Stephen Curry playing his final SoCon tournament close to home, which could have resulted in record crowds, but Curry entered the 2009 NBA draft and was picked seventh overall by Golden State. Davidson got bounced in the quarterfinals last year, but Charlotte's total attendance of 27,935 was the highest the SoCon had experienced in a decade.

Chattanooga had 24,639 fans overall for the '09 SoCon tournament and 24,546 the first time it housed the event in '05.

"Everything worked out perfectly," Sports Committee president Scott Smith said. "We got the financial break for this year, Curry went pro, and the men Mocs were not as good last year as they are this year. It was a great deal for us, especially in hindsight."

As of Monday afternoon, 2,116 all-session ticket books at $75 apiece had been sold for the tournament, which starts Thursday afternoon with three women's games and ends Monday night with the men's championship. There also had been 1,429 any-session general admission tickets sold.

Next year will begin a three-year run for the SoCon in Asheville, N.C., and Iamarino isn't dismissing Chattanooga's chances at future bids.

"Asheville has made a significant commitment to us, and the building size of under 7,000 seats fits well for us," he said. "I think we can create a demand for tickets that has not been there in recent years, but having said that, I think it is premature to say the tournament is going to stick in one place for the foreseeable future. We could wind up with something similar to what the ACC does.

"Greensboro hosts the lion's share of their tournaments, but every three or four years they move it to an edge of the conference. That is a model that has some potential for us."