Boise’s CenturyLink Arena was named the host site for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Big Sky Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Monday afternoon.
If it were up to Boise City Councilman Scot Ludwig, the tournament would make Downtown Boise its permanent home.
“This is going to be a longer term than three years. I can promise you. We’re going to make this tournament continue perpetually in the Boise area,” Ludwig said at Monday’s press conference. “This arena and the downtown were made for this. We’re ready for this. ... The City of Boise will make this a safe, fun, exciting event that will never go away.”
Ludwig’s announcement was met with applause, but it will be up to the Big Sky Conference Presidents’ Council to determine if the tournament extends beyond the initial three-year contract.
For now, Boise made a lasting first impression.
“We looked at tons of cities and tons of venues,” Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams said. “But really when you come to Boise and you get to Downtown, you certainly can’t avoid being impressed by the city and by the community and I think definitely the people. The fact that so many folks have so much connection to the Big Sky and our member institutions, that was apparent on day one, which was excellent. You can just tell they have a lot of pride in the community and they believe in Boise.”
The Big Sky has 12 men’s and women’s basketball programs, including Idaho and Idaho State. Its other member schools are Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State.
Estimates from the Boise Convention and Vistors Bureau project the tournament’s economic impact will be about $1.2 million per year.
The Big Sky is on the final year of its three-year agreement with the Reno (Nev.) Events Center. The announced attendance at the men’s championship game the previous two years was 2,516 (2016) and 2,025 (2017).
CenturyLink Arena is a 5,300-seat facility and is also home to the Idaho Steelheads hockey team.
“The fact that we are so close to many of our institutions,” Williams said, “over six of them are within driving distance to Boise, so that’s very convenient not only for our teams to get here, but also our fans to follow their teams to the city. The fact that we are really in the heart of Big Sky country is really going to elevate our tournament where our alums, our fans can get here hopefully with a lot of ease and really be able to enjoy not only necessarily their teams, but Big Sky basketball in general.”
Idaho’s men and women will be playing a game at CenturyLink this season. The Vandals play a doubleheader Dec. 21, with the women taking on Eastern Oregon at 5 p.m. and the men following against UC Irvine.
“The fact that the conference tournament is going to be in Boise is fantastic for us,” Idaho women’s coach Jon Newlee said. “There is a huge population of Vandal alumni and fans down there. I know they are just going to come out and support us like crazy. We are very excited about the fan support we anticipate having in that tournament.”