Later today we will find out the final attendance numbers for the WIAA Girls Basketball Tournament. This was the first time the tourney was held outside of Madison--at the Resch Center in Green Bay. I saw on Saturday morning that Deb Hauser--who oversees hoops for the WIAA--was talking about increased attendance over last year BEFORE the championship games on Saturday.
There are two likely reasons for that. One--given the walking distance from the Resch Center to the Bay Park Square Mall, all of those kids riding the fan buses to Madison likely actually went into the arena--instead of making a beeline for State Street as they had been doing for decades. And two--it was a whole lot easier for fans to access this tournament than it was in the past.
Attendees of girls tournament took a not-so-crowded four-lane expressway into Green Bay--got off on a clearly-marked exit--and took a six-lane, two-way road to a large surface parking lot that could accommodate every single car within easy walking distance of the arena. Cheapskates could also find free on-street parking for several surrounding blocks. And once their game was done, those same fans got right back onto those high-capacity streets to head directly back to the expressway. Those looking for a meal had several restaurants and sports bars within walking distance of the facility--or dozens more--with free parking--just minutes away by car.
Compare that to the experience attendees of the Boys State Tournament had the week before. They had to deal with backups and bottlenecks on the over-filled Beltline Highway before deciding which of the six non-convenient exits to take to the Kohl Center. That was followed by navigating the narrow, two lane, one-way streets in Madison to find all of the more-expensive parking ramps near the arena are already full--and nobody can tell you where to go to actually find a place to park. The surrounding streets are also lined with cars belonging to UW students--leaving fans to walk for miles from other parking facilities where they had to pay by the hour. And when those games were done, they got to enjoy sitting in traffic on the crowded one-ways to get back to the crowded Beltline in hopes of eventually getting home.
So let's hope that this weekend saw record attendance for the girls tourney--so that the WIAA makes that the long-term home of the event--and perhaps sees that boys fans deserve the same Championship Experience.