When the Bradley Center opened in 1988, the rumblings started that Milwaukee’s sports arena would make a nicer place to play the WIAA basketball tournaments than the University of Wisconsin Field House.
Officials with Wisconsin’s high school athletics organization didn’t buy in, and a decade later the tournaments moved to the new Kohl Center on the UW-Madison campus.
With a new Milwaukee venue scheduled to open later this year, WIAA executive director Dave Anderson has headed off any discussion of the boys basketball tournament moving there.
The WIAA and UW announced Wednesday an extension of the contract to hold the boys basketball state tournament at the Kohl Center — and for six other championships at UW venues — through 2025.
Anderson called it “nonsensical” for the WIAA to look beyond the Kohl Center for the boys basketball event.
“By and large, this has been ingrained in high school sports fans’ DNA, that when you win the state championship, it’s going to be in Madison,” Anderson said at a news conference Wednesday.
Also included in the deal are football at Camp Randall Stadium, individual wrestling at the Kohl Center, team wrestling at the Field House, softball at Goodman Diamond, and boys and girls golf at University Ridge Golf Course.
The extension is the first since 2012, when a contentious atmosphere between the WIAA and UW had it not seeming so nonsensical that the boys basketball tournament would leave town.
At that point, the WIAA was close to moving both the boys and girls basketball tournaments to the Resch Center in the Green Bay suburb of Ashwaubenon.
The WIAA and UW eventually reached agreement on an extension through 2020 for everything but the girls basketball event, which moved to the Resch Center in 2013.
Compared to that negotiation, the process that started last summer was “very easy,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said.
“I think it’s important for us to have student-athletes from around the state here to see our campus to experience what we have here, what we have in the community and dream someday of maybe playing here and going to school at the university,” Alvarez said.
Last week, the WIAA announced similar extensions for the Resch Center’s deal to host girls basketball and volleyball through 2025.
Scheduling conflicts at the Kohl Center and the cost of lodging and parking in Madison were among the issues raised by the WIAA in the 2012 negotiations.
City, county and UW officials and local businesses rallied to keep the boys basketball tournament in Madison.
“Nobody needed to explain it this time,” said Deb Archer, the president and CEO of the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau and Madison Area Sports Commission. “We all just sort of said this is a part of our community. It has a huge economic impact. The exposure and nature of bringing all these potential students and parents, it’s just got so much value. I wouldn’t say it was a no-brainer, but people were all very cooperative.”
The direct spending estimate for all WIAA championship events in Madison was estimated at $21 million in 2015.
The state boys basketball tournament has been held in Madison every year since 1920, with the exception of 1936, when it was held in Wisconsin Rapids.
Camp Randall Stadium has hosted the state football championships since 1982, while state individual wrestling has been held in Madison since 1949 and state team wrestling has been conducted at the UW Field House since it moved from West Allis in 2005.
University Ridge Golf Course has hosted the state golf tournaments since 1992, with the exception of the girls event in the fall of 2012, when the course was undergoing renovations.
Goodman Diamond has hosted the state softball tournament since it moved from Waukesha in 2002.
Madison also hosts the WIAA’s swimming and diving, tennis and hockey championships but those aren’t at UW Athletic Department venues.
Swimming and diving (through 2019) and tennis (through 2020) contracts are with UW Recreational Sports, and the hockey deal (through 2022) is with the Alliant Energy Center.