• City thrilled to land NAIA tourney

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  • A month after it landed a bid to host a regional qualifying competition for the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Independence Events Center, the city of Independence got another big sporting events coup for the IEC.
    The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics recently awarded its 2015 and 2016 women’s national championship basketball tournaments to the city. The tournament is a 32-team, single-elimination event covering seven days, and city officials are excited about the opportunity to host the event.
    “You won’t need to find another host venue after this,” City Council member Jim Schultz said to NAIA representative Eric Olson at Monday’s Council meeting, where the city manager received authorization to enter into an agreement with the NAIA.
    William Woods University in Fulton will serve as the host institution (and thus receive an automatic bid into the tournament), which Independence Tourism Director Cori Day said is necessary for such events to not only provide some personnel but also some guidance on hosting the tournament.
    “They’re excited to help us,” she said. “They’ve been through the tournament. You need that partner that knows the ins and outs of the tournament, that’s played in it.
    “Kyle (Sadewhite) and our sales team did a great job and put together a great proposal,” Day said.
    Sadewhite said the genesis for the city hosting the NAIA Women’s Tournament came when he across the lead at a trade show.
    “I reviewed all the requirements for hosting the event,” he said, “making sure it’s an event that we can put on successfully – the facility, hotels, restaurants, how we can make the budget work.”
    The NAIA has conducted its men’s basketball tournament at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City for 50 years. The men’s and women’s tournaments will be at the same time (March 18-24, 2015 and March 16-22, 2016). Day said the potential of both tournaments in the same locale wasn’t part of the initial proposal, but was a selling point when Independence became a finalist to host.
    Previous tournament host cities were Jackson, Tenn., and Frankfort, Ky.
    “If it hadn’t been a factor for so long, we didn’t want to bank on that,” Day said. “We felt like, sponsorship-wise, it could make both events more successful. And March Madness being what it is. If people are at one of the tournaments and they’ve got some down time, it just makes sense that you could go to the other one.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Also there’s the potential of dual-ticket sales if a school has both basketball teams qualify for their respective national tournaments.
    “I do hope it will increase attendance at both,” Day said. “You get the crossover fan base.”
    “It presents a unique opportunity to draw more fans,” Olson said after Monday’s Council meeting.
    In explaining why Independence won the hosting gig, Olson said the NAIA was impressed with “the cohesiveness between the team they assembled, coupled with the IEC and coupled with William Woods. They put together a compelling bid.”
    “We wanted to make sure city leadership is in favor of it,” Day said about putting the proposal together. “With tourism, it’s very much a partnership with what we do every day.”
    The agreement between the NAIA and Independence calls for the city to reimburse the NAIA for a wide variety of tournament expenses. In return, the city retains all profits from ticket sales, parking costs, sponsorships and broadcast revenue. According to the Council agenda item, past tournament financial reports show that sponsorship dollars combined with tournament profits will cover all reimbursement costs.
    As Olson mentioned, there also is the matter of extra tax dollars produced by the influx of visitors.
    “It’s more about the economic impact than making the tournament a money-making venture,” he said.
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