While taking time to be a tourist wasn’t truly in the plans this week in Boise, I did want to wade into some thoughts regarding the move of the tournament and some key differences noticed between Reno and Boise.
There’s a much different vibe about the tournament, no matter how attendance is viewed. Word of mouth is going to be as much a sales factor going forward as anything, and, given everything I’ve heard, having the tournament in Boise is a “win” after three years of a lack of enthusiasm in Reno.
Centurylink Arena: this set up really well. One of positives is its overall structure–two levels of seating, better access to suites and a compactness that was missing in Reno, which was a one-level seating setup. The overall seating number is less than what the Reno Events Center claims, but the design adds to an intimacy that was also missing in Reno.
Hotels: Besides The Grove Hotel being attached to the arena, the others are mostly within walking distance. UNC lucked into having both teams in The Grove, and the general consensus is that teams will be making it the first choice when teams draw their lots for lodging the next two years. The lobby bar became a great gathering point for fans of all teams, whether staying or just walking through to get inside the arena. There’s also the point that no one is dealing with staying in casino hotels (i.e. dealing with smoking & its after-effects).
Outside activities: While a certain segment would favor the casinos, I’m a fan of a strong, vibrant downtown. Boise wins in that area, with plenty of choices for meals, drinks, etc, all within walking distance. Also, there’s no leeriness of walking after dark that some felt in Reno. The added activities on the plaza–concerts, skill challenges, etc–give a feel of a real conference tournament that was missing at the casino complex & arena in Reno.
Schedule: What would be any discussion about Big Sky basketball this season be without thoughts on the schedule? Why should the tournament be any different? The 9:30am start Wednesday was viewed with humor on social media, but it points up the oddity of this year’s setup. The alternating of men’s and women’s games Monday through Thursday in Reno was a better one, plus the women’s championship was contested on Saturday, the same as the men’s title game. This year’s set up moved the women’s title game to Friday afternoon, leaving Saturday to just the men. Reverting to the previous years’ schedule would be welcome, but that would also mean shifting the final weekend of women’s games back to a Wednesday/Friday formulation to allow for teams to get to Boise without being pressed too tightly for time.
Finally, while there are other technical aspects to be discussed afterwards (arena floor including both NBA & college 3-point lines, lack of scoreboards other than the above floor video board), the general view has been that the change has offered a ton more positives.