As the holidays come to an end and conference play begins, it is time to seriously discuss the need for a regular holiday basketball tournament in Denver featuring front range D1 basketball teams.
There should be an annual holiday round robin tournament featuring Colorado, CSU, Air Force, & Denver. Depending on the format, Wyoming and Northern Colorado could be included or rotated into the tournament as well.
Of course, the only way this would be a local success would be for the University of Colorado to participate. This season they have already played CSU and Air Force along with lower-tier regional programs Fort Lewis and Northern Colorado. At the Las Vegas Classic they played Nicholls State & Hampton State in boring blowouts of 17 and 42 points respectively. Certainly, the revenue and notoriety of a front-range tournament would not only pit many of the currently scheduled regional and local CU opponents but, additionally, provide a more compelling schedule for local CU basketball fans as well.
The thread-bare argument for CU to avoid local competitors has been centered on the potential risk to their RPI as well as the potential loss of prestige to another front range foe. Still, if this year’s schedule is typical, there are greater risks with Fort Lewis and Nicholls State than any of the current front range competitors who maintain higher RPI’s. And a holiday tournament also offers financial benefits such as local ticket sales, fan excitement, and decreased travel costs that would make the event worth the effort.
Like most tournaments, to ensure games-played for participants, a round-robin format pitting each team against each team in the tournament would be ideal. The venue needs to be intimate – so the Pepsi Center would be a poor option. Naturally, none of the local universities should host the tournament because this would not create a neutral court tournament.
The answer may rest in an antiquated facility near downtown Denver. Denver voters recently approved Proposition 2C to plow major improvements into the National Western Complex. Under the proposition, the city will extend a 1.75 percent tax on lodging and rental cars to fund improvements for the National Western Complex which includes the Denver Coliseum. The stock show venue will become a year-round facility geared to concerts, festivals, rodeos and horse shows. New site plans include a new 10,000 seat seat arena with a total project cost of $500 million.
While it will take time for front range basketball programs to exit previous basketball scheduling agreements, construction of the new Coliseum complex will allow for time and planning. The other plus for the Denver Coliseum is a regular 3-4 days holiday event to ensure occupancy and revenue during the holiday season.
In the past, Athletic Directors have not been able to get this done. It may be time for the Chancellors and Presidents of the participating Universities to get together and direct their athletic departments to ‘get it done’. The President of CU, Bruce Benson, spoke at Chancellor Chopp’s innaguration so they should be able to pick up the phone. It would be good for the schools, the fans, and the city of Denver.