Other Views: Grand Forks mustn’t give up on state tournaments

GRAND FORKS -- Team Grand Forks may not quite be at the point where it has to pull its goalie and go for broke.But that moment sure feels like it's only a few minutes of game-time away.City and University of North Dakota leaders should recognize ...

GRAND FORKS - Team Grand Forks may not quite be at the point where it has to pull its goalie and go for broke.
But that moment sure feels like it’s only a few minutes of game-time away.
City and University of North Dakota leaders should recognize the urgency, and start treating the possible loss of the North Dakota state boys and girls hockey championships as the civic disaster that it is.
As Grand Forks Herald staff writer Tom Miller reported this week, Grand Forks’ future as the site of the state championships is “in danger,” thanks to scheduling conflicts at The Ralph and Fargo’s success at hosting a moneymaking championship last year.
Couple that loss of local competitiveness with the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s new practice of locking some state championships into permanent sites - with Fargo and Bismarck successfully winning the tourneys that have the biggest draws - and you’ve got the real possibility of the state hockey departing Grand Forks, forever.
Is “disaster” too strong a word? Not if you consider all of the factors, including:

  • How important it has been to Grand Forks’ economy and civic identity to have hosted the state hockey championships for all these years.

And by “all these years,” we mean “all these years.” Last year, Fargo hosted the state hockey championship for the first time in 44 years. The event had been a Grand Forks tradition and institution for all of that time and even beyond. But as Herald staff writer Brad Schlossman wrote in 2015, “Fargo won’t have to wait 44 years to host the North Dakota state hockey tournament again.” That’s because the event is going back to Fargo in 2017 - and the way things are going, it apparently could be Grand Forks that waits 44 years for its next chance to host the tournament.

  • How important the championships have been to UND? If we were UND admissions officers, and we were losing the prospect of dozens of high-school athletes from around the state and and more dozens or even hundreds of those athletes’ classmates descending on campus for high-spirited fun every year, we’d be pretty upset.

Doesn’t UND realize that the tournament has been vital in its own efforts to market itself to and recruit college-bound North Dakotans?

  • How sad - and ominous - it is to see Fargo outhustle Grand Forks and snatch what had been a high-profile, signature Grand Forks event.

Again, that’s especially true because the momentum for winning state high-school tourneys all seems to be going Fargo and Bismarck’s way, thanks to the NDHSAA’s new focus on net revenue - a category in which smaller cities are finding it very hard to compete. So, how can Grand Forks respond?
With focused and high-level attention. With the creation of a Grand Forks Sports Commission, a joint city, Park District, School District, Convention Bureau and UND effort that would build on strengths in sports events, correct weaknesses and fight like heck for tournaments.
With corporate sponsorship campaigns that would give local companies the chance to support the Grand Forks Sports Commission’s efforts.
And with Grand Forks residents’ renewed commitment to attending these events, starting as early as at the state hockey tournament Saturday.
Herald editorials likely will have lots to say about this topic in months to come, and we very much hope Grand Forks leaders and residents chime in. Can Grand Forks retain and regain its pride of place as one of North Dakota’s top venues for state high-school tournaments? You bet we can, and what fun it’ll be to work toward that goal, too.
The Grand Forks Herald’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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