You might no longer have to endure all those pimply-faced kids in their team jackets trying to look cool on State Street in the early spring. Madison might also not have to endure their parents and the $10 million or so they bring to our economy every year.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) is seriously considering taking its tournaments to Green Bay, outside of the capital city for the first time in almost a century. The University of Wisconsin-Madison should find a way to keep the tournaments here because it means more to the university and to Madison than just the money.
The high school boys and girls basketball tournaments are held at the Kohl Center, but the UW wants to lock down the space over the two weekends that the tournaments traditionally take place for the potential appearance of the new Big Ten hockey playoffs starting next year.
State Journal sports columnist Tom Oates explained the situation succinctly in a column published Saturday. While Madison hotels and stores might lose money, the UW Athletic Department could see substantial revenues from both attendance and television proceeds from the playoffs. But it's also a risk, because if the Badgers don't make the playoffs, they could see nothing but a dark Kohl Center on weekends that used to hum with activity.
But it's not just the risk of two quieter than normal weekends in downtown Madison that's at issue here. Face it, Madison is the city that out-state politicians love to run against during their campaigns, but love to run around in if they win. They enjoy our bars and restaurants and our young vibe, even if one of us might be dumping the occasional beer on their heads.
Much of the same holds true for all those kids and their parents from places like Potosi. I'm sure they enjoy the trip to Madison, and lots of good memories are made here both on the basketball court and on State Street. How many bright Wisconsin kids decided on the UW as their campus of choice because they came here for a WIAA tournament? How many parents decided to let them come here because they experienced how safe and friendly the city was, and how beautiful it can be even in March?
Look, we've got problems enough connecting to the rest of the state. We're viewed by too many of our fellow Badgers as arrogant, elitist, and hopelessly out of touch politically. Heck, I think of us that way sometimes, and I used to be the mayor of this town.
Losing the high school tournaments would cost us more than millions of dollars. It would widen the chasm between Wisconsin and its capital city. The UW should figure out a way to have their hockey and keep the tournaments too.