Keeping state high school tournaments in Aberdeen was the main item of discussion at Monday's Aberdeen City Council meeting.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association is considering a proposal to centralize events in one community, rather than rotating tournaments as they are now. Under the idea, state basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball tournaments would be held in the same city.
The City Council passed a resolution opposing the idea Monday. Before that, Julie Johnson of Absolutely! Aberdeen and Brenda Moore of the Aberdeen Convention and Visitors Bureau gave a report on an SDHSAA board meeting that was held in Pierre on March 19. Johnson and Moore were two of nine Aberdeen people who attended that meeting.
Johnson told the council that Aberdeen has much to be proud of, including our fabulous ability to host state tournaments. The Hub City has a long history of successfully hosting such events, she said. The entire community really rolls out the red carpet, she said.
The State B boys' basketball tournament March 15-17, Moore reported, was attended by about 5,000 people on Thursday night, 5,500 on Friday night and 6,000 on Saturday night. Those numbers may have been a little low because this year's tournament was televised, she said.
One reason Aberdeen is a successful host is because Central athletic director Gene Brownell and his crew do a tremendous job, Moore said. At the B basketball tournament, volunteers put in 150 hours at the hospitality room. Two or three people have been volunteering in the hospitality room for 25 years, she said.
The state youth wrestling tournament held over the weekend, council member Laure Swanson said, was so well-organized that it concluded two hours early on Sunday.
Moore said the issue is not one of Aberdeen vs. Sioux Falls. Other cities around the state are cooperating with Aberdeen in lobbying to retain a multi-city rotation, she said.
Councilman David Bunsness asked if money is the prime reason the tournaments might be centralized.
Johnson said that legislative audits of the SDHSAA are available online. I can't believe that money brought them to this consideration. They have cash. They are flush with cash, she said.
Johnson believes that an SDHSAA staff member introduced the idea of centralizing tournaments. The chairman of the SDSHSAA board, Terry Nebelsick of Huron, was cordial at the meeting in Pierre, said Johnson, who feels the Aberdeen representatives received a fair hearing.
Mayor Mike Levsen said he heard many comments in support of Aberdeen at the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame induction Saturday in Madison. Not one person he spoke to thought moving the State B out of Aberdeen was a good idea, Levsen said.
Councilman Todd Campbell said he was in favor of building a new events center in Sioux Falls because the whole state will pay for that arena through sales tax. But taking away events from the rest of the state to benefit Sioux Falls is not benefiting South Dakota, he said.
Don't be going after something that's not broke. And it's not broke, Campbell said.
Perhaps a tournament in another city might make more money, Moore said. But keeping an event affordable for families is also important, she said.
A candy bar and a pop at the State A wrestling tournament last month in Aberdeen cost $3, she said. At the State B wrestling tournament in Rapid City, a pop and a candy bar cost $8.
Bunsness suggested that the Aberdeen School District be encouraged to oppose centralization.
Johnson does not believe centralizing the tournaments has much support on the SDHSAA board, one of whose members is Brownell. But Aberdeen representatives plan to be at the next board meeting April 17, and at future meetings of the group. Moore also encouraged council members to continue writing letters to SDHSAA board members. We need to stay engaged until this issue is either put to rest or decided differently, Johnson said.