One more year and the Pac-12 Tournament is gone from Los Angeles and the Staples Center. That's one year to figure out not only a new venue but a way to get one of the most poorly-attended college basketball tournaments out of the Big Six conferences some recognition, fans and sponsors.
From 1987-1990, the league rotated the tournament from venue to venue but shut down the event for over a decade before the current Staples Center plan was resurrected in 2002. Now, commissioner Larry Scott is looking for answers, and according to the Seattle Times, isn't convinced that returning to a rotating event is necessarily a bad idea.
Hear me out. Give the city of Phoenix a two-year contract and see how it does. The Valley of the Sun might surprise people in how fitting of a place it'd be to host a Pac-12 Tournament for a while. According to The Sporting News, here's a list of cities that could host the tournament for Pac-12 basketball:
Officials from Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco/Oakland, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas are thought to be preparing bids.
While the paper's Percy Allen writes that Los Angeles and Phoenix each had expressed unofficial interest in bringing the Pac-12 Tournament to them, Seattle has openly announced a plan to bring the tournament there. But in rainy Seattle? Will fans really show up? Of course the Washington Huskies fans would, maybe even some proponents of the Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers and Washington State Cougars would make appearances. But Seattle?
How about somewhere with a bunch of transplants from across the nation, a place where being a basketball fan is good enough? I'm not sure Los Angeles is that place, although having LA's nice weather would be welcome as well. We want people to, you know, mingle outside and participate in fan-friendly activities. Phoenix?
It's worth a shot. Of course, you have whatever Arizona State Sun Devils basketball fans are in the valley -- that's maybe 4,000 people, according to their attendance numbers from last year. Just kidding, kind of (I spoke with incoming freshman Jahii Carson for my gig at Dime Magazine this past week. He's a good kid and a program-changing basketball player. Maybe more ASU fans, after hiding under rocks the past few seasons, will come out of the woodwork when Jahii is lighting it up). Then you have a large Arizona Wildcat fan base already in the Phoenix metropolitan area, plus those willing to make a 1.5 hour drive north from Tucson
And we all know Phoenix is a city of transplants from the Midwest, East Coast and California. I don't know the statistics (I'm also too lazy to really find out) but I would be surprised if there weren't some UCLA, USC, Utah, Colorado, Cal, Stanford, etc. etc. etc. fans who call Phoenix their home.
And the weather? March isn't bad at all, and whether it's a high of 70 or 90 -- who knows with global warming these days -- I'm pretty sure there's a really small chance of rain ruining everything.
Venue-wise, the valley could easily handle the men's tournament at U.S. Airways Center and the women in Wells Fargo Arena. It's probably one of the few areas that would be capable of hosting both the men's and women's tournament (there's been talk of separating the two).
At the very least, it'll be even better than Staples, which echoed with emptiness because there's no way enough people will show up to fill that place. I'd rather have a smaller-sized arena rather than a place with stacks of suites upon stacks of suites that make it more like a football arena. U.S. Airways is big enough to host an NBA All Star game but it's also not overkill.
OK, so I don't think Tucson is necessarily the best idea economically, though I do think a lot of Arizona fans would show up and possibly make it a very tempting option for the Pac-12. But the Phoenix area is simply so big and diverse, the potential is great if it's done the right way. That's not to mention it's an easy plane ride from most places aside from Wazzou (but nowhere's easy to fly to from Pullman).
So to cut the losses as someone who lives, usually, in Tucson, let's keep this thing in Arizona. Why not Phoenix?