Kudos to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Boardwalk Hall officials, Atlantic City Sports Commission and anyone else who played a role in trying to lure the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to Boardwalk Hall.
Here’s hoping they get it.
Attendance fluctuated during the Atlantic 10 Tournament’s six-year stint from 2007-12, depending on which teams advanced. Temple’s strong alumni base — the late Jim Whelan proudly wore his cherry-red sweatshirt to games — showed up en masse to watch the Owls. Saint Joseph’s also drew a lot of fans and students.
Other teams didn’t draw as well. In 2012, there were hundreds of empty seats for the Sunday finale between St. Bonaventure and Xavier.
Still, the atmosphere was always electric. Pep bands from the schools would sit beneath each basket and blare energetic tunes while cheerleaders danced and flipped along the baselines.
The MAAC tournament could have similar attendance problems, but it’s worth a shot. Maybe the lure of Atlantic City — casinos, boardwalk, top-notch restaurants — will convince fans from their schools to make the trip.
Hopefully, it will also prompt MAAC Commissioner Richard Esnar to make a concession and move the tournament ahead a week, to the second week in March.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association individual high school wrestling tournament has dibs on the first weekend. There’s absolutely no way Boardwalk Hall general manager Jim Wynkoop should even consider moving that event.
The 2018 tournament will be the 23rd held at the arena, breaking the tie it held with Princeton University’s Jadwin Gym. Wrestling initially moved to Boardwalk Hall in 1992 and has been held there every year except for a four-year stretch (1998-2001) when the Hall was undergoing a $90 million renovation.
More 10,000 fans routinely fill the venue for each session of the three-day tournament in early March, making it one of the most popular events on Boardwalk Hall’s schedule.
No reason to mess with success.
Here’s hoping that the various city and state entities will now start to consider adding more sports at Boardwalk Hall.
There was a time when Atlantic City rivaled Las Vegas as the boxing capital of the world. Sadly, it’s no longer the case. Casinos have stopped backing big fights. Boardwalk Hall hasn’t hosted a boxing event in its main arena since Sergey Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins on Nov. 8, 2014. Meanwhile, New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center have replaced it as the top East Coast venues for the sport.
“Boxing is something that we continue to have dialogue over with promoters,” Wynkoop told The Press in an October interview. “Boxing was the type of event that almost always had a casino sponsor. So we have a bit of a financial hurdle to overcome.”
They could soon have boxing upstairs in the Adrian Phillips Ballroom for the first time in nearly two years. According to Wynkoop, permanent boxing lighting has been installed, which would significantly reduce the labor costs.
That would enable them to land some of boxing’s top fighters.
Kovalev, who fought in the Ballroom a few years ago, would presumably be open to another bout there, considering he’s promoted by Kathy Duva of New Jersey-based Main Events. It would also be a good fit for arguably the best fighter in the game, WBO super-featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko. Both fought recently at Madison Square Garden’s Theatre, which is roughly the same size as Adrian Phillips.
The arena needs more sports events and a college basketball tournament is a great fit.
So is boxing.
(David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesday and Sunday in The Press.)
Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com