sun state wrestling

Lacey's Lex Knapp (left) wrestles during a loss to Phillipsburg's Brandon Hull in the 220 lb. FINAL. Sunday March 4 2012 State Wrestling Championships, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

Ben Fogletto

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - The state individual high school wrestling tournament could be on the move from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Steve Timko, executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, said Wednesday the organization will submit requests soon for proposals from arenas around the state to host the event. The tournament, held in March, is one of the highlights of the local sports calendar and annually draws more than 40,000 people during its three days at Boardwalk Hall.

The possible move is financially motivated. The NJSIAA is under financial duress because of a 2010 law that limits the amount of money it can charge for tickets.

The NJSIAA made about $130,000 on the event at Boardwalk Hall this past March. But the organization lost $18,000 on the entire wrestling tournament, which includes the district and regional competitions. Timko said 28 of the 32 district sites and three of the eight region sites lost money.

"There are some people who think we need to be more financially prudent," Timko said. "Then we may have to look at what the best alternatives are for NJSIAA."

Timko said the NJSIAA must pay Boardwalk Hall an $80,000 rental fee and $32,000 facility fee.

"That's $112,000 before the first kid wrestles," Timko said.

Timko stressed the NJSIAA has a good relationship with Atlantic City officials and Boardwalk Hall.

"Atlantic City has been great," Timko said. "The people have been fantastic. It's not like we've been mistreated in Atlantic City."

Boardwalk Hall general manager Greg Tesone said he recognizes the NJSIAA has financial issues.

"They're trying to get the best bang for their buck," he said. "If that's what they need to do, we understand that. We'll wait and see what their specifications are, and if it makes sense for us to bid on it, we'll bid on it."

The NJSIAA's contract with Boardwalk Hall expired after this year's event. The tournament has been at Boardwalk Hall every year since 1992 except for a three-year stretch from 1998-2001 when it was held at Atlantic City Convention Center and the Izod Arena in East Rutherford. Boardwalk Hall underwent a $90 million renovation during those years.

Tesone said Boardwalk Hall wants to keep the event.

"They moved the event before - not willingly - and it didn't go over well," Tesone said. "This location is the best location in the state for this event. We don't want to lose any event. It generates a good amount of impact throughout the city."

Few venues in the state are realistically large enough to hold the wrestling tournament. The arena floor needs space for eight mats. Possible venues are the Izod Arena, the Prudential Center in Newark or the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.

Timko said he hopes to get the requests for proposals out to various possible sites by the end of the school year. The NJSIAA could ask an arena or site to pay it for hosting the event. The Izod Arena already pays the NJSIAA to host to the basketball Tournament of Champions finals.

"Anything is possible," Timko said.

While the wrestling tournament may be moved, it will definitely be expanded. There will be wrestlebacks for the 112 wrestlers who lose in their first match at Boardwalk Hall, under a proposal approved by the NJSIAA executive committee Wednesday. Timko said he was unsure of the logistics of how the wrestlebacks would be held.

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