Monday, February 25, 2008

Western Regionals moving could lead to problems

About two weeks ago, the N.C. High School Athletic Association announced it was moving the N.C. Western Regional basketball tournament, one of its biggest events of the year, from Lawrence Joel Coliseum and Annex to high school sites.

All boys semifinals next week will be at North Forsyth High School. The girls will be played at Atkins High.

Winston-Salem was awarded the regionals in 2004, primarily because Joel Coliseum and the Joel Annex provided ample seating and parking and was a big improvement over playing at Lenoir-Rhyne College and area high schools in Hickory, which had hosted the event for years.

I'm not a big fan of the Annex, which seems like a big cold barn, but you can see boys and girls teams from the same school on the same night. The Annex and Joel Coliseum sit right beside each other. Both arenas are spacious and parking and access is great.

That could be a problem at the high school sites.

NCHSAA spokesperson Que Tucker told me the move was made for financial reasons and the regionals finals, held on Saturday March 8, would be played at the Coliseum and Annex.

Tucker said the NCHSAA explored different options in Winston-Salem, including playing at Winston-Salem State, but the school didn't have the dates available.

"We feel good about the schools, North Forsyth and Atkins, stepping up to host," Tucker said. "Someone asked, 'Is this a step backwards?' I prefer to not think about it like that. It's a step to the side for this year because we were left in a situation where we had to make an adjustment."

Tucker said the future location of the regionals is in question.

"It's up to Winston-Salem as to whether they'll retain the regionals," Tucker said. "If not, we'll look to make a move."

Tucker said the association hasn't spoken to anyone about hosting and said hosting the event costs between $30,000 and $40,000. To me, the logical site is Charlotte, though the dates for the CIAA Tournament and the western regionals might sometime conflict.

This year the regionals are the week after the CIAAs. In any event, the regionals could be at UNC-Charlotte/Mine Shaft (upfitted with temporary bleachers) or UNC-Charlotte/Cricket Arena or Davidson/Cricket Arena or lots of other potential sites. I'd even look into private Charlotte Latin, which has a perfect sized facility.

Langston Wertz Jr.