And the winner is ...
The MAAC Council of Presidents will vote tomorrow on where to hold the MAAC tournament from 2012-14. After the Prudential Center withdrew its bid, the choice is between the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., the Times Union Center in Albany and the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
Since the conference announced in the summer of 2008 that it would award the tournament to the same site for three years, we've run down all the potential options, weighing the pros and cons.
Tomorrow, we'll see what the league presidents decide to do. But for now, a quick rundown of what the options are:
Pros: Despite the validity of concerns about on-court fairness, the purpose of tournaments like these is to make money, and no city has been more successful in that regard than Albany, where attendance has dwarfed that of any other site. It's the only site that can say it's a known commodity, and one of the only Northeastern cities where the sports scene revolves around college basketball.
Cons: Presidents who put fairness as the top priority won't be able to vote for holding the tournament on the home court of the team that has won the league title the last two seasons and is favored to do so again. There's also some concern that if down the road, Siena gets eliminated early, there will be a lot of empty seats in the semifinals and finals.
Pros: There has been a lot of momentum toward holding the tournament in a neutral site, which is why a lot of league presidents liked the idea of Mohegan Sun before it ended up not submitting a bid. Mohegan would have had far more support if it had submitted a bid because it's much more marketable as a destination site than Springfield. But the Basketball Hall of Fame is a drawing card, and although there isn't a MAAC school within 90 miles, it's an easy enough drive for fans of most teams.
Cons: A neutral site is a risky proposition because there's no local fan base to tap into, making the tournament almost entirely dependent on fans traveling from other areas. And having grown up in Western Mass, I can testify that although the area has good college basketball fans, most of them have never heard of the MAAC.
Pros: Fairfield has sold the Harbor as a place that has three of four home fan bases instead of just one. Iona and Manhattan fans -- along with whatever Saint Peter's fans exist -- could make easy day trips, and the location is relatively convenient for Siena and Marist fans. It's also extremely easy to access by public transportation, with a stop on Amtrak and Metro North trains and the Bridgeport-Port Jeff. ferry literally next door to the arena.
Cons: If what you're seeking is fairness, can you really justify holding the tournament on ANY team's home court? And if you're seeking the place that offers the biggest potential for fan support, can you really hold it anywhere but Albany?
I'd place Springfield as the favorite because of the momentum for a neutral site, but put Albany as a very live underdog. Nothing would shock me, but Bridgeport is certainly the longshot.
Let's get some chatter going. Where does everyone WANT the tournament to be held, and where does everyone THINK it will be held?