UD Arena will be the place to be in March for basketball fans in 2022, 2023 and 2024. The most ambitious fans — or those with the most free time — could see 28 games at the arena in 11 days in each of those years.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Monday it will hold its boys and girls basketball state championships — the semifinals and finals in four divisions — from 2022-24 at UD Arena. That adds up to 24 games in each year. In between each of those tournaments, the University of Dayton will host the First Four, the opening four games of the NCAA tournament.
That will make UD Arena Director Scott DeBolt the busiest man in basketball for those periods, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the reasons UD spent three years and $76.2 million renovating UD Arena from 2017-19 was it wanted to host more events.
“It really gives us the opportunity to give back to the community,” DeBolt said, “and I think a lot of people appreciate what we did with the renovation. Like we always say, we do basketball well here.”
Centerville boys basketball coach Brook Cupps knows that. He saw it firsthand when his team won the Division I state championship by beating Westerville Central 43-42 in March.
“UD’s such a great venue for games,” Cupps said. “I think it’ll be a cool atmosphere for a state championship game when they can have full crowds. I was excited when they talked about taking it back to St. John Arena. The Schott is just too big and too spread out. The court is so far away from the fans.”
The job Dayton did hosting the boys and girls tournaments in March was one reason the OHSAA decided to keep the events there for three more years. The girls tournament was already slated to move to UD Arena in 2021 and stay there through 2023, but the new contract keeps the girls tournament at UD for one more year and adds three years for the boys tournament, which did not have a home for 2022.
“We’re certainly looking for a great experience for student athletes,” said OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute, “and and this arena is fantastic — a basketball arena, to say the least. We did have a lot of a lot of feedback from 24 communities, 24 schools that had that experience here this year.”
Until this March, the boys and girls state championships had been held at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center for years. The boys tournament was scheduled to move to St. John Arena this March, but was unavailable because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ute said the OHSAA did have discussions with Ohio State about keeping the boys tournament in Columbus.
“Our philosophy is we’ll listen to anyone about anything at any time,” Ute said. “We owe that to all our folks in the state of Ohio.”
Ute said scheduling was an issue because the girls basketball and wrestling tournaments both will take place on the same weekend in the years ahead. In past years, they have both taken place at the Schottenstein Center.
While most of OHSAA’s state championships have been centrally located in Columbus over the years, there are exceptions. The state swimming championship has been held in Canton for years. The football championships have been held in Canton and Akron, for the most part, throughout the OHSAA’s history. The state softball tournament is held in Akron.
While Ute said a central location is optimal, he said UD Arena “is the best facility that’s affordable.”
Keeping the tournaments in Dayton means a lot to the city as well.
“One look at this arena tells you that it is meant to hold outstanding events,” said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I was fortunate to attend the girls basketball event in March and was really impressed. During this time period of COVID, what a terrific job the arena did. It was as full as it could be, and there was excitement. We’re going to have even more of that as we look forward to the next three years, hosting this wonderful event.”
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