NCAA regionals returning to arenas? Plenty of people are happy about that
There was much rejoicing in Twitterworld Wednesday morning when ESPN's Andy Katz reported that the NCAA tournament committee did not want regionals held in domes anymore. The process, originally designed to help future Final Four sites get a test run in ahead of time, has become outdated, with all of the currently established Final Four sites (Dallas, Indianapolis, Houston) already having hosted either a Final Four or (in Dallas' case) a regional.
According to Katz, Mark Lewis, the NCAA vice president in charge of championships, believes the regionals should be held in arenas more suitable for basketball, so with the exception of the Carrier Dome (an on-campus venue already slated for a 2015 regional), expect future years to unfold in more traditionally sized and scaled venues.
For all the hemming and hawing of traditionalists who decry the atmosphere and shooting backgrounds in domes that make games played there less palatable, it's not clear that either impact is all that well established. Sure, greater space between the floor and the roof and less intimate spectator seating can impact noise levels, but that's much more heavily dependent (in my experience) on who's playing in the game.
Last year in Dallas, the vibe was pretty strong, especially in the semifinal when Kansas was playing. It was the same at the Alamodome a couple years earlier, when Kansas fans dominated. Any venue with a KU, Kentucky, Louisville or other major program with a diehard fan base will make for a pretty good atmosphere, and an arena isn't going to make an unsexy matchup that much better.
Also, for all the arguing over the "dome effect" on shooters (CliffsNotes: There's no definitive study that really can isolate it; Best sense, cobbling together all of the isolated attempts to look at it is there may a slight impact), we have had some excellent games in domes, this past year's national final as notable evidence. Butler didn't shoot 18 percent against UConn because the game was played in a dome.
Maybe I've gone soft on the concept, as I have argued against these locations in the past. Call it "Stock Dome Syndrome"? It just doesn't seem like that big a deal to me at this point. The teams are excited to play there, the fans still come in large numbers, and there doesn't seem to be a massive effect on game play.
There are several constituents who should be happy with this news, though:
Less supply equals more demand. Maybe Kentucky (nahhh) and other elite fan bases could pass on a subregional and watching their team paste a couple of overmatched foes, but the regional is bigger time. People want to be there for those, especially if a trip to the Final Four isn't realistic. There are fewer bad seats and fewer seats available overall. That's good for secondary-market business.
2) The Carrier Dome
As the saying goes, "Whenever someone says 'It's not about the money, it's about the money.'" Suddenly, the Dome is the only scalable venue in the mix for future regionals. If selling 20,000 tickets is good, isn't selling 30,000+ tickets better? The same premise got the Final Four into domes to begin with, so it makes sense that a basketball-crazy city with that kind of venue would get additional looks down the road, despite a lack of modern amenities and a distinctly unsexy (but often geographic/bracket friendly) locale.
3) Tournament planners
Taking away the growing dome influence on regionals will help bring other locations more into play for the second weekend of the tournament. There are a lot of markets that would love to have the event and have the facility for it. It also doesn't take current dome-venue cities out of the mix. Regionals certainly could be held at Conseco Fieldhouse (Indianapolis), American Airlines Center (Dallas), Target Center (Minneapolis), etc. More options will lead to more competitive bidding processes and, assumedly, better events. So, yeah, it's nice that basketball will more often be played in actual basketball venues during the most important time of the basketball season, but a lot of people stand to benefit from it. There's nothing wrong with that as a byproduct of positive change.