A great place for a tourney

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Last Thursday and Friday was America’s version of what the rest of the world does during soccer’s World Cup.

The day-long buffet of basketball, which turned out to be rather predictable this season, unless you picked Wake Forest to win the championship (see last Thursday’s or Sunday’s sports page of the News-Herald), is the time to find any possible way out of work.

Seeing, either as a fan or a reporter, a high school or college basketball tournament in person, especially when there are back-to-back (or even four “backs”) games is great excitement.

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Now it looks as though the long-lasting problem of the Eastern Region basketball tournament at Churchland High School is coming to an end. Norfolk mayor Paul Fraim is offering Scope and a deal that will work well for his city and for the local school districts, which rightfully kept the tournament at Churchland throughout the past decade because fiscal responsibility had to take a backseat to a bigger, better stage for a sports tournament, even one which a lot of people care about.

As a fan who just happens to be able to “work” at high school basketball games, if the final deal is worked out and the Scope officially becomes the home to the Eastern Region Basketball Tournament for February 2010 and beyond, this is great news. The passion for basketball, especially for high school basketball, in Hampton Roads could have Norfolk and Scope wind up saying, “Why didn’t we get this done sooner?”

In Richmond earlier this month, the Siegel Center played host to five straight days and nights of thrilling high school basketball. On the Friday night of the two Group AAA finals, even without a Richmond or Central Region school in either of the games, the 7,500-seat Siegel Center was about two-thirds full.

Even given the current schedule the Eastern Region Tournament goes by, there will be three nights in downtown Norfolk next February, with Scope as a beehive of activity (and making parking and concession money, which the city will reportedly keep, while the schools take in the ticket revenue).

Perhaps organizers could plan a way for the regional quarterfinals to be played at Scope, with quadruple-headers on back-to-back days, making for a five-day long event. Even though it’s one step shy of the state tournament, no one would be able to tell the difference in terms of excitement and attendance.

In Larry Rubama’s article in the Virginian-Pilot, Ted Daughtrey, chairman of the Eastern Region and principal at Granby High School, said, “What it will do for the Eastern Region monetarily I can’t even begin to tell you. When you look at the expenses for putting on the Eastern Region tournament … and what we’re going to save with the city doing this for us, it just gives us an opportunity to do a lot of good things for a lot sports other than football and basketball.”

If this turns out to be accurate, and put to good use, the fans who won’t be shut out of Churchland’s gym next season won’t be the only winners.