NAIA to leave Tulsa

Thursday, September 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has narrowed its search for a new home to five locations in five states, officials announced Thursday.

The NAIA's relocation committee will travel in October and November to Cleveland, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; Olathe, Kan.; and St. Charles County, Mo. A final decision is planned for mid-January.

The cities were among 18 that submitted proposals to draw the association and its national men's basketball tournament from Tulsa, the NAIA's home since it left Kansas City, Mo., after 35 years in 1992. Tulsa also was among the cities that responded.

NAIA President Steve Baker said that staying in Tulsa is not out of the question.

"We're basically taking a look at what the marketplace has to offer," he said. "We found cities in this bid process that made substantial commitments. That's not to say Tulsa is in or out."

Baker declined to describe what the five contenders proposed. But he described three key criteria:

An understanding of the NAIA's philosophy and its character initiatives, willingness to partner financially for NAIA facilities and programs and an interest in NAIA championships, including a willingness to put up seed money for the events.

Other criteria included having an international airport within 45 miles, at least five NAIA institutions within a 100-mile radius and access to a basketball facility with seating for 7,000, Baker said.

The association wants a new office that will include a museum, hall of fame and a planned Character in Sport Center where it will offer sportsmanship seminars and character programs.

"We were happy with the five bids," Baker said.

He said some of the communities already had large character programs going on in their school systems. They also indicated financial commitments of land and potential dollars to put behind facilities, he said.

Other cities that submitted proposals were: Branson, Mo., Chula Vista, Calif., Denton, Texas, Grand Rapids, Mich., Hardin County and Jackson, Tenn., Jackson, Miss., Kingsport, Tenn., Lincoln, Neb., Louisville, Ky., Memphis, Tenn., Mobile, Ala. and Muncie, Ind.

Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City, has plans to build a convention center, hotel and 8,000-10,000 seat arena. Fort Wayne has established a committee to raise $1.5 million in private funds to lure the NAIA and has designated three sites to house the headquarters.

Tulsa has not revealed what it had proposed to keep the NAIA. NAIA officials have said their organization has pumped $69.9 million into the Tulsa economy.