Posted 3/25/14 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Whenever I have the opportunity to travel to either Fargo or Grand Forks to cover the State Class B basketball tournaments, I always seem to ask myself the same couple of questions.
One, “Why in the world is the State Class B Tournament being held in the far eastern part of the state and not in the central part of the state, such as Bismarck or Minot?”
The North Dakota High School Activities Association has no doubt felt that it is in their best interest to have Fargo, Bismarck, Minot and Bismarck be part of some great rotation for the Class B basketball tournaments. But I remember fondly when Minot and Bismarck were in a two-city rotation of the tournaments and both always seemed to try to outdo themselves when it came to hosting the Class B. While Minot and Bismarck are two of the state’s larger cities, they really pride themselves on “putting on the dog,” so to speak when it came to welcoming Class B fans to town. When the “B came to town” in either Minot or Bismarck, fans from across the state knew that they were the big event.
However, that same feeling and the welcoming atmosphere are noticeably absent in Fargo and Grand Forks. For example, when the State Boys Class B Basketball Tournament was being played in Grand Forks, there were also three other state tournaments being held there on the same weekend. And while the State Girls Class B Tournament was the only state tournament in Fargo this past weekend, it just didn’t seem to have that same magical feel of days gone by.
Maybe it was the distance that fans from the central and western parts of the state had to travel to Fargo that cut into the crowds at this year’s tournament atmosphere. But something was missing.
Which brings up the subject of my second question, “Why are the State Class B basketball tournaments being held in stadiums that were built for college football games or are large enough to hold a concert?” Not knocking the Alerus Center in Grand Forks or Fargo’s Fargodome, but no matter how hard they try to divide a huge stadium into a smaller space to accommodate a basketball court, some of the game’s atmosphere disappears. And then when you start removing the Class B fans from the proximity of the court and their teams, the whole scenario just doesn’t make sense.
When you compare the basketball court in the Bismarck Civic Center or in the Minot State University Dome, as well as their fan-friendly seating to either the Fargodome or the Alerus Center, well there just is no comparison.
Both Fargo and Grand Forks have great basketball facilities in The Betty at the University of North Dakota and the Bison Sports Arena at North Dakota State University. So one has to wonder why weren’t these venues made available for the Class B State basketball tournaments. If seating capacity is an issue at either or both of these venues, then maybe the NDHSAA needs to revisit where it holds the tournaments.
Either way, in my opinion, both Minot and Bismarck are hands-down winners when it comes to being the two best host sites for Class B basketball tournaments in the state. One, they are both centrally located in the state so that no team or its fans are forced to drive 350-plus miles to the games. And two, they have the best facilities in the state to play high school basketball tournaments.