The planned razing of the Frankfort Convention Center, scheduled to begin in November as part of a larger downtown demolition, will change the face of basketball in Central Kentucky for the foreseeable future.
All “A” Classic officials are scrambling to find a site for the annual small-school tournament. Chairman Stan Steidel told KyForward.com last week that Eastern Kentucky University, which hosted the event at McBrayer Arena from 1991 to 2011, has expressed interest in returning it to campus but Steidel doesn’t think the school will be able to adjust its men’s and women’s basketball schedules to accommodate the weeklong tournament.
“We’re going to find a place to play it one way or another,” Steidel told KyForward. “I expect to have it fixed within a couple weeks. I’m just not going to let it slide. We’ll take care of it one way or another.”
The convention center has hosted the 41st District basketball tournaments as well as the 11th Region basketball tournaments in recent years. Several high schools within Franklin County as well as in surrounding counties have held proms and graduations at the downtown venue. The Mid-South Conference basketball tournaments also have been staged there recently.
Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce President Carmen Inman told the Frankfort State-Journal last week that the chamber plans to gather information on the impact the loss of the convention center will have and review that data at a board meeting later this month.
Like most, Franklin County boys’ coach Tony Wise was surprised by the news.
“It took me, personally, completely off guard,” Wise said. “It’s one thing to tear something down and to have an idea. To my understanding, there’s no solution in place.”
Wise wants a neutral party to step up to host 41st District teams once the postseason begins. Not only did the convention center remove home-court advantage, but it allowed kids to play on a bigger court (like they’ll see in the regional and state rounds) earlier in the postseason.
He suggested Kentucky State University as a possible winner in the area should it be interested in bringing high school events to its campus.
“In my opinion, this is a golden opportunity for K-State to reach out to us,” Wise said. “It gets multiple kids on campus. They get to see the facilities and it’s a free college visit for hundreds of kids over three days, and I’m just talking about district basketball tournaments. Imagine if they offered up graduations, proms and stuff like that.
“I know there’s some conflict there with college activites, but if I’m with K-State I’m all over that.”