North Dakota eyes steady sites for state tournaments
FARGO - Take one glance at the North Dakota High School Activities Association's approved eight-year state tournament calendar and several trends can be seen.
One trend is that the state wrestling tournament will be held at the Fargodome for six straight years starting in 2015. That's alright with West Fargo wrestling coach Kayle Dangerud.
"I think the Fargodome is the best place to have the state wrestling tournament because of the arena, the four full warm-up mats, and there is plenty of space to run and warm up," Dangerud said. "I think having the tournament in Fargo is great for our sport, and I think a lot of the wrestling people agree."
Wrestling is just one of several sports including basketball, football, basketball and volleyball that are transitioning to more permanent sites. But NDHSAA Board of Directors member Jim Roaldson prefers the term "preferable" sites.
"I think the term 'permanent sites' is something we all would like to stay away from," said Roaldson, who is the activities director at Jamestown High School and sits on the NDHSAA's tournament committee. "If you look at where tournaments have been and where tournaments are going, there are definitely some sites that we would like to call preferred, and we have more or less almost made certain events a permanent fixture at."
The state track and field meet is slated to be hosted at the Bismarck Community Bowl through the 2019-20 school year.
Other trends include:
-- The state boys and girls hockey tournaments being held at Ralph Engelstad Arena five of the next six years, including a four-year run from 2016 to 2019.
-- The Class A boys and girls basketball tournaments being hosted at the Bismarck Civic Center from 2016 to 2019.
-- The state volleyball tournament being held at the Minot State Dome from 2013 to 2015 and 2017 to 2019.
-- The Class B boys basketball tournament alternating between the Minot State Dome and the Alerus Center in Grand Forks from 2014 to 2020.
-- The Dakota Bowl state football championships alternating between the Fargodome and the Alerus Center from 2013 to 2019.
Roaldson said many factors go into the tournament committee's recommendations for tournament sites, and that the calendar is always subject to change based on availability.
The NDHSAA's tournament committee meets twice a year in Carrington with tournament managers from Fargo, Bismarck, Minot and Grand Forks to discuss and review tournament issues. The next meeting is set for Wednesday, and no tournament issue has been more paramount lately than where those tournaments will be played.
Sherm Sylling, the Executive Secretary of the NDHSAA, weighed in on the matter at a board meeting in March.
"My comments were made to determine whether or not we could transition to more permanent sites," Sylling said. "The tournament committee is taking a look at recommending more permanent sites for tournaments that are conducive to having permanent sites.
"It's been discussed at our combined tournament committee meetings for a number of years. What I told the tournament managers was that if you look at the sites that have been approved by the board, there is a movement toward that."
North Dakota is unique in that it has venues across the state capable of hosting state tournaments. All of Minnesota's high-profile high school state tournaments are played in the Twin Cities.
"Most states do have a structure with well-established sites for their tournaments," Bismarck High School activities director Jim Haussler said. "I think what makes North Dakota unique is overall we are facility rich in a lot of ways. We have two indoor football facilities that are very nice, and we have a lot of nice basketball facilities."
Haussler, a member of the state's tournament managers committee, has managed more than 200 state and postseason tournaments.
"I am an advocate of establishing a more stable pattern of where tournaments are played," Haussler said. "I just think it makes a lot of sense from a management point of view. ... Running the same tournament year after of year does provide you to gear up and maintain structure."
One key in transitioning toward more secure sites is money, mainly the profitability of certain tournaments at certain venues.
NDHSAA financial reports from 2002-03 to 2011-12 show several trends of tournaments generating consistent profits at specific venues.
"I think the reality of the situation is we have to start looking at some of our tournaments that we know do better financially in some locations rather than others," said Todd Olson, Fargo Public School activities director and NDHSAA Board of Directors member. "The economics of hosting tournaments at different sites are going to have to become a bigger part of the discussion than they have been up to this point."
The NDHSAA, a nonprofit organization, attempts to zero-balance every year after factoring in expenses and operating costs. The remaining profits the NDHSAA generates in a given year are distributed back to its member schools.
The Class B boys basketball tournament - the state's most profitable tournament during the last 10 years - has performed better at the Minot State Dome in recent years.
In 2011, the B boys turned a profit of $136,571.74 at the Minot State Dome. In 2012, the B boys tournament profits dipped to $83,135.91 at the Alerus Center.
Many factors could have contributed to the steep decline of $53,435.83 in profits from the previous year the tournament was played in Minot, but none are more glaring than the expenditures of rental fees. Rental fees at the Alerus Center were $20,718 in 2012 compared to $7,500 at the Minot State Dome in 2011. Total expenditures at the Alerus Center were $75,308.34, which was $26,000 more than at Minot.
"It costs more today than it did 10 years ago to hold an event at a venue," Sylling said. "As expenses continue to go up, our tournament committee will be paying more attention to the financial piece."
From 2008-2012, the Class A basketball tournament had its two most profitable years - $67,252.86 in 2008 and $63,057.65 in 2010 - at Bismarck Civic Center.
The schedules of the North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota football teams dictate where the Dakota Bowl football championship games are played. The rotation between the Alerus Center and Fargodome remains intact through 2019.
Financial reports show the Dakota Bowl performs better financially at the Fargodome. From 2002 to 2011, the top four profitable years for the Dakota Bowl were at the Fargodome.
"Finances are part of this, but I always get back to the experience for the kids," Haussler said. "The tournaments do belong to the kids, and giving the kids the best experience possible is important."
"It never is going to be 100 percent supported across the state," Sylling added. "We have the luxury of having all these venues. The fair thing to do has been to move them around. When you move them around, people get upset, and when you keep them in one place they get upset, but you just have to go with what serves the schools the best."