Tulsa, Oklahoma City Both Hope To Land Future Tournaments

Sunday, March 11th 2007, 12:59 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City, fresh off hosting its first Big 12 Conference basketball tournaments, plans to bid to bring the events back in the future, perhaps as soon as 2009, an official from the tournament organizing committee said Sunday.

All Sports Association Executive Director Tim Brassfield said the city's performance ``made a statement'' to the Big 12 that the tournaments should return to Oklahoma City in the near future.

``When you lay out a plan and put things on paper, and hope they will certainly come to fruition as you dreamed, I can say we've done that, and actually, probably even exceeded our expectations in a lot of ways,'' Brassfield said before Kansas' 88-84 overtime win over Texas in the men's tournament championship game at the Ford Center.

Kansas City, Mo., will host the Big 12 tournaments in 2008. The league will take bids for the 2009 event in mid-April and could decide on the 2009 host as soon as the conference meetings in late May, Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg said.

Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City and Dallas are expected to offer bids, and Weiberg said Omaha, Neb.; Des Moines, Iowa; San Antonio and Houston might also be interested.

``We're certainly going to be as aggressive as we need to be. We hope that we've made a statement here that would be tough to be ignored,'' Brassfield said.

Oklahoma City already is hosting women's NCAA tournament regional games in 2008 and 2009 and men's NCAA tournament first- and second-round games in 2010.

This year, Oklahoma City used the Ford Center for the Big 12 men's tournament and the Cox Convention Center for the women's event. The arenas are located across a street from each other, prompting the city to develop the marketing slogan ``58 Steps Between Champions.''

``We had a lot of very favorable comments,'' Weiberg said. ``The ease of access from a fan standpoint to the two arenas was outstanding.''

Tulsa would use its downtown arena _ the under-construction 18,000-seat BOK Center _ and Oral Roberts University's Mabee Center for the two events, the Tulsa World reported Sunday.

``We can be a player in this,'' Suzann Stewart, senior vice president of the Tulsa Convention and Visitor's Bureau, told the Tulsa newspaper. ``We have had dialogue with the Big 12 staff. We speak with them regularly. If we thought we were just wasting time, we would not do this.''

Kansas City also will have a new arena, the Sprint Center, as well as a renovated Municipal Auditorium, while Dallas has used American Airlines Center and Reunion Arena in hosting previous Big 12 tournaments.

``The difference, perhaps, between us and other cities, if there is one, is that our entire city embraced this event,'' Brassfield said. ``When it comes to Oklahoma City, it is the event.''

The men's championship game drew 18,879 fans. But one edge Oklahoma City figures to have in the bidding process is that it also set records in its support of the women's tournament. The women's event drew a record 48,990 fans _ the old mark was 35,619 _ and had three of the top five sessions in terms of attendance in Big 12 history.

``We were fortunate to have a matchup that had great local appeal, in the sense that Oklahoma continued to advance through the tournament,'' Weiberg said. ``But I think there was a great feeling that that event was perhaps as good as it's ever been in terms of attendance and overall atmosphere.''

The championship game, in which Oklahoma beat Iowa State 67-60, drew 12,413, a tournament record and the largest crowd for a women's sporting event in the state's history. It was only the second sellout in tournament history, with the other coming in 2000 in Kansas City.

``I'm so proud of the state of Oklahoma right now,'' Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said after the game.

Throughout the tournament, Big 12 women's coaches praised Oklahoma City, even those who lost to the Sooners in front of partisan crowds.

``There are not enough words in my vocabulary to thank the people of Oklahoma City,'' Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. ``It was an absolutely phenomenal event. They did a tremendous job in every area of the event. And I think what they did is they made it really, really hard not to bring it back here.

``Everyone you saw was, 'Hi, how are you doing? What's up? What do you need? What do you need?' And it's the environment that these young people deserve to play in and be a part of.''

Kansas men's coach Bill Self, a native Oklahoman, predicted the Big 12 tournaments ``will come back here ... from my perspective, I would think this is a good place to have it from the fans' standpoint. To think the crowd was this good today and you didn't have an Oklahoma school playing, I think, bodes well not only for our fans but fans in the area. I'm sure they will get it back.

``It needs to come to Kansas City. I'm selfish from that standpoint. We like it in Kansas City the most. But I think Oklahoma City did a fabulous job.''