Basketball is one of the most popular team sports in the country. In fact, probably every adult in the U.S., at some point in their lives, has been on a basketball court—whether it was in school, in a park, in a gym or in a driveway.
For both genders, there are nearly 18,000 U.S. high schools that offer basketball teams, and in 2010, about 540,200 boys and 439,600 girls played competitively on high school teams, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
For many years, basketball has held the top spot as the favorite team sport in the country. And while there is, and probably always will be, a high percentage of “pickup” basketball players, there are thousands of organized events and tournaments in the U.S. every year—and many of them are looking for venues that can offer players, fans, families and event organizers a great on-court and off-court experience.
“Our city really embraces sports,” says David Galbaugh, the director of sports sales and marketing for the Greater Birmingham CVB. “We’re a sports enthusiast’s town. Whenever you bring an event here, there will be people in the seats and lots of energy.”
Basketball, of course, has a nice history with the city, which has hosted NCAA Division 1 first and second rounds and regional finals at the 17,000-seat Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the state’s foremost convention and entertainment center. “We’re well-versed with big-time basketball with that facility,” Galbaugh says. “Whenever you can host NCAA Division 1 basketball and be part of the dance, it’s pretty special.” The complex also has hosted SEC, C-USA, SWAC Conference and state high school championships.
Another key venue is the University of Alabama–Birmingham Bartow Arena, which seats 8,500 fans. Two additional courts are available in the nearby Bell Gym. Samford University offers the state-of-the-art Pete Hanna Center which has two courts, including the 5,000-seat Thomas and Marla Corts Arena, home to Samford basketball. Birmingham Southern University has three courts available. And the 5,000-seat Bill Harris Arena, connected to the Birmingham Crossplex, recently underwent a $3 million renovation that included the addition of a four-sided, center-hung LED display scoreboard, new basketball floor and goals.
“In Birmingham, we may love our football,” Galbaugh says, “but we’re pretty keen on basketball as well.”
The Eugene/Cascades area’s reputation as a key sports destination on the West Coast continues to grow, says Mike Gaffaney, the sports sales manager for Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports. The largest indoor venue in Eugene is the Matthew Knight Arena, home to University of Oregon’s men's and women's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. State-of-the-art technology enhances both the athletes’ and the audiences’ experience at the 12,000-seat venue, which has also hosted high school state championships.
Another top-notch facility is the Willamalane Center for Sports & Recreation in Springfield, which is managed by the Parks Department. The facility has six collegiate-size courts (three hardwood, three Sport Court) with scoreboards on either end and hosts a number of basketball tournaments and events, from club to AAU tournaments.
Three colleges in the area offer basketball facilities. Lane Community College, which has men’s and women’s teams, has hosted events including club basketball and AAU and high school tournaments. Northwest Christian University has the Morse Event Center with its collegiate-size court. New Hope Christian College offers the Rexius Event Center. Both schools have hosted high school, all-star and regional tournaments. Also, a number of high schools in the surrounding area have excellent basketball facilities available.
Louisville has a rich history in basketball. The city has played host to NCAA Division 1 Tournament play and offers a number of excellent college and high school facilities. The KFC Yum! Center, of course, is the home of the University of Louisville men’s and women’s basketball programs.
The massive Kentucky Exposition Center is a key venue. “We’ve had as many as 18 courts in the Exposition Center,” says Greg Fante, director of sports development for the Louisville Sports Commission, “but we can host many more courts there.” The facility is home to Hoopfest every July, which brings about 3,000 participants to a college showcase where national coaches evaluate players for the NCAA.
Louisville also has a number of standalone basketball facilities. Hoops, a 90,000-square-foot facility has 11 hardwood basketball courts with five high school regulation courts, two college regulation courts (with possession arrows and shot clocks), a stadium court with adjustable height glass backboards, adjustable basketball rims on all courts and a center-hung scoreboard on the main court.
The MidAmerica Sports Center has five full-size basketball courts, including a center stadium court with seating for 1,000 spectators. There also is the Basketball Academy, which has three courts and has played host to regional and national tournaments.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City is host to the oldest ongoing collegiate basketball tournament in the U.S., the All-College Classic, which predates the NCAA, NBA, NIT and NAIA events. In December 2013, the 78th edition of the tourney was played at the 18,000-seat Chesapeake Energy Arena and featured both men’s and women’s matchups.
Directly across the street from the downtown location is another premier basketball venue, the Cox Arena, which is in the Convention Center and seats nearly 15,000. Between the Chesapeake Energy Arena (which also is home to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder) and the Cox Arena, the city is able to host a lot of NCAA basketball, including a Big 12 women’s tournament in March. “We’ve had NBA playoffs here, NBA finals, NCAA men’s and women’s regionals and more,” says Sue Hollenbeck, assistant director, sports business development for the Oklahoma City CVB.
Many youth tournaments come to town and play in venues throughout the city, including Mid America Youth Basketball events that bring in hundreds of teams and the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Association. “Our servicing department is awesome and always connects with clients,” says Holly Shelton, manager of sports business development for the CVB.
Puerto Rico offers many state-of-the-art venues for basketball tournaments, such as the Coliseum of Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, the Puerto Rico Convention Center Pedro Rosselló, and the Roberto Celemente Coliseum in San Juan. There also is the Ruben Rodríguez Coliseum (Bayamón) and the Roberto Clemente Sports Complex (Carolina). In other areas around the Island, the Juan Pachín Vicéns Amphitheater in Ponce, the Manuel “Petaca” Iguina Coliseum (Arecibo), the Raymond Damau Coliseum (Quebradillas) and the Palacio de los Deportes (Mayagüez) all can be set up to host basketball tournaments.
All of the venues have been host to world-class sporting events and offer NCAA and NBA-compliant courts. In addition, Puerto Rico’s facilities are Olympic-size capacity, offering plenty of seating for spectators. Puerto Rico also is home to a chapter of the Association of Basketball Referees, an excellent source for securing tournament officials. Additionally, San Juan facilities are located close to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
South Sioux City, Nebraska
“Our basketball facilities are unique,” says Dan Masters, the activities director and assistant principal at the South Sioux City High School. “We have a middle school and a high school on one campus, connected. The middle school has two basketball courts and the high school has five more, which allows us to host all kinds of tournaments. You can knock off a lot of games in a weekend with seven courts.” Recently the city hosted a boys’ basketball tournament with about 60 teams, and the campus is able to host Mid America Youth Basketball events.
Another unique aspect of bringing a basketball event to South Sioux City is the high school’s main gym, which is a dome. “It’s a cool venue to play in, especially for kids,” says Masters. “There is 360-degree seating around the court, and the high school teams have had very successful seasons, so there’s a lot of pride in that setting, which makes it very fun to be there.” There is also a second gym that offers three full-size practice courts, with curtains in between them and individual scoreboards on each court.
“One of the main advantages we have is that when we host a larger youth tournament, most if not all of the games will be on our campus,” Masters says, “so players and fans don’t have to drive to the next gym. That’s a really big advantage for us.”
The Temple, Texas, area has a number of facilities suitable for basketball events, including the state-of-the-art Mayborn Campus Center at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. The center itself can accommodate 7,000 spectators, and there are VIP and press boxes overlooking the court. Also available is a slightly smaller basketball facility at Temple College, which has hosted NJCAA regional championships. In addition, city-operated recreation centers offer more indoor basketball facilities, as does the Temple High School.
“We work really closely with the other cities in our area and do a lot of co-op marketing, so we can put together some pretty good packages,” says Nancy Glover, manager of the Temple CVB. “We have a great relationship with other cities in the area and can leverage resources throughout the area.”
The ultimate basketball showcase venue in Tulsa is the BOK Center, which seats 19,000 and is home to the Tulsa Shock WNBA team, says Vince Trinidad, executive director of the Tulsa Sports Commission. The BOK Center has played host to NCAA men’s and women’s basketball championships early rounds, among other top basketball events.
“One thing that makes our area stand out is that we actually have high schools that feature collegiate-level sports facilities,” he says. “I’ve never seen high school facilities like this.” For example, a key venue in Tulsa is the Union Multipurpose Activity Center, or UMAC, which is a 5,662-seat arena and home to the Union High School basketball team. There are six concession stands and a center scoreboard with a six-foot by eight-foot video screen.
“Moving forward, we expect UMAC will be one of our key facilities,” Trinidad says, “along with the brand new Frank Herald Fieldhouse in nearby Jenks, Oklahoma.” The ribbon-cutting for the Frank Herald Fieldhouse took place at the end of November, and the state-of-the-art facility is just five miles from UMAC, connected by a major highway. “Tulsa will be really hard to beat with these two facilities.”