The girls state basketball tournament will move to Towson University's new SECU Arena in March after 20 years at UMBC.
"UMBC's been great to us over the years, but it's a beautiful new facility at Towson," said Andy Warner, assistant director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. "We had an opportunity to go over there and visit and it offers a lot of the great new things that you see with new facilities. It’s going to be a nice venue for the girls tournament."
Warner noted SECU’s LED boards and the additional space for seating as well as more concession stands. The scoreboard is four levels high.
SECU Arena seats 5,200 while UMBC's RAC Arena seats 4,024.
"I think we're getting to a point with some of our games that the attendance is really good and this will give us a little more room," said Diane George, the site director for the girls tournament. "I think the atmosphere there will be the same as at UMBC as far as the fans being close to the floor. We're going to stick with the lower [seating] bowl. We're not going to go up to the upper bowl yet unless it's deemed necessary, so we do have some room for growth there for the future."
The move to SECU Arena comes with a schedule adjustment for next March. Because of a gymnastics event on Friday, March 14, the semifinal games will run a day earlier with the title games remaining on Saturday. The Class 1A and 2A semifinals will be on Wednesday, March 12 and the Class 3A and 4A semifinals on Thursday, March 13 with a day off before the finals on Saturday, March 15.
In recent years, MPSSAA officials have had to design alternate schedules for the girls tournament at RAC Arena because the regular season winner in UMBC's conference, the America East, earns the right to host the conference basketball championship.
Those alternatives haven't been needed in the last few years, but in 2008, the Retrievers’ men's basketball team hosted the America East final the same Saturday when the girls state finals were scheduled, forcing MPSSAA officials to work around it.
Towson’s conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, plays its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at neutral locations.
George, a former Loch Raven basketball coach who has worked the state tournament for 40 years, went to the first games played at SECU Arena -- a men's and women's doubleheader against Navy -- on Nov. 8 to check out the new facility.
"We were just really pleased with the setup there and the facilities," George said. "I think it'll be a nice shot in the arm for the tournament to make a little change."
The MPSSAA continues to have a great relationship with UMBC, Warner said. The state soccer finals were held last weekend at UMBC Stadium and will remain there, as will the state lacrosse finals, scheduled for the third week in May.
State finals are held at many locations around the state including M&T Bank Stadium for football, Comcast Center for boys basketball, Ripken Stadium for baseball and Morgan State for track and field.