For nearly 120 years, America has been playing basketball. What started as a strategy for keeping a YMCA gym class active on a rainy day has become one of the most popular sports in the United States and the world.
The first basketball game was played spontaneously with a peach basket—bottom intact—nailed ten feet up a gymnasium wall. In more than a century, the sport and its facilities have come a long way. Today, basketball event owners have the choice of a nearly limitless array of first-class facilities from coast to coast.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
More than a million people call metro Oklahoma City home, as well as numerous colleges and universities, giving "The Big Friendly" a unique blend of big city amenities and culture with college town charm. Add to that Oklahoma City's 15,000 hotel rooms, plentiful attractions and more than 3,000 annual hours of sunshine per year, and you've got an attractive destination for nearly any sports event. And for basketball, Oklahoma City offers a full range of facilities, including some professional playing experiences like no other.
The Oklahoma City Arena, formerly the Ford Event Center, has hosted numerous NCAA championships in recent years.
In December 2010, the 586,000-square-foot facility hosted the world's oldest basketball tournament, the Lane Furniture All-College Basketball Classic, celebrating its 75th year in 2010. Hosted by the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, the doubleheader featured Oklahoma State University playing Alabama Crimson Tide,and the University of Oklahoma taking on the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Since opening in 2002, the OKC Arena has seen a number of improvements including new restaurants, speakers, video boards,upgraded lighting and finishes on the upper level concourse, new Terrace Suites and Lounges on the club level, telescopic and upgraded seating in the lower bowl, state-of-the-art scoreboard and production facilities, and locker room renovations. After the 2010-2011 basketball season, the Arena will undergo even more improvements.
Across the street from the OKC Arena, the Cox Arena is a 32,000-square-foot facility with cushioned seating for 15,000. With full press, production and broadcast facilities, as well as flexible floor seating arrangements, the Cox Arena is the ideal facility for basketball events of any size.
"The Cox Arena is a fantastic facility that offers a great home for NCAA events as well as a wonderful championship arena for larger basketball tournaments," says Sue Hollenbeck, assistant director of sports business development, Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Because the arena is located within the Cox Convention Center, we have the capability of setting up a large number of basketball courts for large tournaments and then offer the top teams have the opportunity to experience playing in a professional-level facility at the Arena."
Gil H. Steinke Physical Education Center
Located in historic Kingsville, population 25,000, Texas A&M-Kingsville (TAMUK) is home to one of basketball's great facilities. Known for a fierce home court advantage, the Gil H. Steinke is a facility that has seen a remarkable amount of basketball passion.
The Steinke Center and its Kingsville Hampton Inn Court are home of the TAMUK men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams. Seating more than 4,000 fans, the Steinke Center hosted the 2001 NCAA South Central Regional, and served as three-time host of the Lone Star Conference Basketball Tournament.
Just 40 minutes from the beaches of Corpus Christi, historic Kingsville is home of the King Ranch, birthplace of the American ranching industry. With a variety of hotels in every price range, numerous attractions like the still-operating King Ranch and a range of dining and shopping options,this friendly college town offers an idyllic location for youth basketball tournaments.
Peoria Civic Center
The Peoria Civic Center hosts over 375events per year and 900,000 visitors annually. Recently receiving a $63 million expansion and upgrade, the Civic Center features an exhibit hall, theater, meeting room space and Carver Arena, home of the Bradley Braves and host of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) basketball finals.
"Carver Arena is a big venue for college games," says Travis Harper, sports services manager, Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "There's a huge amount of support in Peoria for the Bradley University Athletic program, especially a lot of support for basketball."
Peoria hosts the annual IHSA March Madness Experience, which takes place in the Center's 100,000-square-foot exhibition hall. Taking place over two March weekends, the March Madness Experience draws approximately40,000 visitors to the area for some of the region's best basketball as well as interactive games for the whole family.
"In addition to the Civic Center's recent renovations, which included a new entrance, allowing indoor ticket sales and a new concession facility offering one of the more unique varieties of food around, the Arena also just got new, bigger scoreboard, with a huge screen so that fans get a better picture of everything that's going on," says Harper.
Peoria is home to several other prime basketball facilities as well, including the new Bradley University Athletic Performance Center. Completed this summer, the 160,000-square-foot facility includes men's and women's basketball facilities, dedicated locker rooms for 14 varsity sports, team rooms and classrooms, athletics administration, ticket office, team store, a hall of fame museum and strength, conditioning rooms and hydrotherapy areas. The facility's arena serves at the home court for Bradley's volleyball and women's basketball teams.
Illinois Central College
Peoria offers another exceptional facility at Illinois Central College, an Illinois community college located in East Peoria. The 15,000-square-foot arena, home of the school's six-time national championship women's basketball team, hosted this year's Division II Women's Basketball National Championship.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Situated in one of basketball's most famous districts, Tobacco Road, the greater Raleigh area is home to the Big Four of Basketball: Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina and Wake Forest University. Given the area's historical basketball dominance, it's no surprise that this is a community where some supreme basketball facilities can be found as well.
"Our primary facility is the RBC Center, which is becoming a real focal point of NCAA basketball tournaments," says Scott Dupree, vice president for sports marketing, Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The RBC Center, home to the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions Carolina Hurricanes and NC State University Men's Basketball, welcomes over 1.5 million annual guests and hosts more than 150 events each year.
The 700,000-square-foot, $158 million RBC Center includes four seating levels, with seating for 19,722 for basketball games. Over 8,000 designated parking spaces, 18 permanent concession stands, over 50 portable concession stands, 37 public restrooms, as well as escalators and elevators throughout the building make up some of the RBC Center's first-class amenities. On three concourses, you'll find 66 luxury suites, 2,000 club seats and a spacious 9,100-square-foot restaurant.
The RBC Center will host a 2012 NCAA Women's Basketball Regional, and has in the past hosted a variety of other NCAA events, including the NCAA Men's March Madness in 2004and 2008 and women's tournament games in 2002, 2007 and 2009, among others.
While Raleigh is heavily involved with collegiate basketball, it is also home to one of girls' basketball's biggest events, the Deep South Classic. In its 11th year this April, the Deep South Classic, presented by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, is a three-day event hosted by University of North Carolina, Duke University and NC State University.
"What's unique about the Deep South Classic is the opportunity it provides to young female athletes, putting them in legendary basketball facilities and in front of college coaches during the only live recruiting period allowed by the NCAA," says Dupree.
"We have some tremendous basketball facilities in Maryland," says Terry Hasseltine, director, Maryland Office of Sports Marketing. "Within our state, you can find a plethora of public and privately owned, Park and Recreation and other university facilities."
Truly, Maryland is rich in basketball tradition and basketball facilities, with more than 90 facilities in the state. The state's main collegiate facilities are highlighted by the University of Maryland Comcast Center, home of the Terps, and Coppin State's Physical Education Center, both built by the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Completed in the fall of 2002, Comcast Center provides a 17,950-person seating capacity and serves as a campus site for university special events and select community events. Comcast Center is home to the University athletics administration offices and includes a 7,000-square-foot Academic Support Center, an additional 1,500-seat gymnasium, home to the Terps' volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling teams, and Sprint Heritage Hall, a multi-purpose room overlooking the competition arena that is equipped to host banquets, press conferences, meetings and serve as a pregame restaurant suite.
Coppin State's Physical Education Center
The newly built Coppin State PE Center opened in 2010, including a 4,100-seat basketball arena as well as an array of other indoor and outdoor facilities,including classrooms, laboratories, four racquetball courts, two multi-purpose recreation spaces, a two-court auxiliary gym with storage, an eight-lane 25-meter competitive pool with seating for 100,two locker/shower rooms, two official and two visitor locker rooms, as well as eight lighted tennis courts, a baseball field, synthetic turf softball field, and an eight-lane, 400-meter track.
Bryan-College Station, Texas
College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, aims to greet every event with a "big Texas Howdy," and it's this reputation for laid-back, Texan hospitality that brings thousands of visitors to town every year. Located in the Brazos Valley, "Aggieland" is situated at the heart of central Texas, in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston triangle. As a result, the city is accessible to over 14 million Texans within less than a four-hour drive.
Home to one of the top 30 attractions in Texas, The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Bryan-College Station doesn't stop there. The community also offers many outstanding museums, galleries, entertainment, recreation, shopping and dining options, as well as a variety of hotel options to suit any price range.
Cox-McFerrin Center, Texas A&M University
The Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball, home for the men's and women's Aggies, is a 68,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art basketball facility. The Cox-McFerrin Center is adjacent to Reed Arena and includes a foyer rotunda entrance, two practice gymnasiums, large locker room facilities, players' lounges, coaches' offices, a weight room, team meeting rooms, a training/medical room and video rooms.
"When we host events at the Cox-McFerrin Center, it's actually a great recruiting tool for Texas A&M," says Kindra Fry, director of group sales, sports and conventions, Bryan-College Station Convention & Visitors Bureau. "People come to events there, and they love the facility, and they also see that we're actually a city, somewhere they might want to go to school."
This year Texas A&M, along with a number of other Bryan-College Station facilities, will host its 14th Great American Shootout.
"The Shootout is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournament, and it brings in about 120 men's teams for three days over a weekend in the June," says Fry. "For this event, we use facilities at both of our school districts, including two high schools, three middle schools and the Cox-McFerrin Center at A&M."
It's a big-time basketball showcase, and a great way to see what this Texas college town has to offer.
Basketball for All
With the ever-growing popularity of basketball, it's likely that the already vast number of basketball facilities across America will only grow and become more sophisticated. For sports events, that's nothing but good news. To learn more about the facilities available for your next event, contact the National Association of Sports Commissions at www.sportscommissions.org.