Posted at: 03/14/2014 5:47 PM
By: Mark Mulholland
GLENS FALLS - This is the 34th year that this city has been the center of the state basketball universe.
The Civic Center has hosted this tournament every March since 1980.
"It's our March Madness. The NCAA tournament has a March Madness, this is ours," said Mayor Jack Diamond.
The fans come from around the state and buy tickets to see their teams play, spend money on concessions, and eat in downtown restaurants.
"This tournament is very important. Very important that we keep everybody here and we show what we have," said Tracy Willis, owner of Gourmet Cafe.
Organizers say the basketball tournament pumps $4-million a year into the Glens Falls-area economy.
At the Civic Center, it's the second biggest draw behind professional hockey.
But at the end of this season, the Adirondack Phantoms will re-locate to an arena in Pennsylvania, leaving their temporary home behind and leaving a big hole in the Civic Center's schedule.
"You fill this place forty nights a year with a hockey team, it's going to be good for everybody downtown," said NYS Assemblyman Dan Stec, R - Queensbury.
The mayor and others in Glens Falls have been on the offensive for months, trying to lure another American Hockey League team to town to take the Phantoms' place.
"It's important for this community to continue to keep this building and help the business district in the community as well," said Diamond.
A worst case scenario has the taxpayer-supported civic center closing if it can't find a permanent tenant, but the mayor is doing everything in his power to prevent that.
The basketball tourney is scheduled to be played here through 2016. Organizers hope it's here long after that.
"We're optimistic that things will work out and the City of Glens Falls can maintain this facility," said Doug Kenyon, the long-time director of the state basketball tournament.