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South Dakota House Will Keep Hands Off State Tournaments

South Dakota State Capitol
SD.Gov

In a day and age where politicians either do the wrong thing – or nothing at all – the South Dakota House of Representatives got it right today in Pierre.

The House Education Committee unanimously voted to kill House Bill 1088, a measure that would have mandated that state tournaments in South Dakota stay in cities that have traditionally hosted those events in the past.

The bill was introduced in response to the South Dakota High School Activities Assocaition’s (SDHSAA) plan to have a combined Class A girls-boys state basketball tournament in 2016 that would hosted in Sioux Falls.  Rapid City would host in 2017 and then the process would be re-evaluated at which point it could be scrapped altogether, continue to rotate between South Dakota’s two largest cities, or remain in a permanent site.

That didn’t sit too well with four Representatives from Eureka, Clark, Kyle, and Aberdeen, as well as a trio of Senators from Rapid City, Aberdeen, and Pierre.  Those seven authored the bill, no doubt in part, to keep the money flowing into their little corners of the state.  

What those seven failed to take into account, or chose to ignore, is the existance of the SDHSAA, which oversees all things athletic at the high school level in South Dakota.  The folks at the Activities Association have enough trouble already dealing with the opinions of all of their member schools, let alone the politicians in Pierre who think they know how to run high school sports better than the people who are paid to do it full time.

The South Dakota High School Activites Association does not exist as an economic development agency for small amd medium cities in the state.  The association’s only task is the well being of high school athletics, and high school athletes, in South Dakota.  They are not working for any chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau.

There are two important issues to remember here:

1) This bill, although it doesn’t address it specifically, is not about all state tourmanents.  It is about a trio of events: basketball, voilleyball, and wrestling.  Those are the tournaments that currently operate on a rotation basis that actually draw the kind of attendance that puts them into the ‘potentially profitable’ category.  No one is interested in protecting their right to host events that generate little or no revenue: cross country, gymnastics, golf, and tennis.

2) The timing of this bill is directly tied to the new events center in Sioux Falls, which opens late next year.  Other cities look at the new 12,000 seat venue as a real threat in the future to their ability to compete in hosting state events.  The fact that it’s in Sioux Falls is the final straw for some in other parts of the state.  There has already been a successful campaign to ioslate Sioux Falls’ high school teams from dominating large school football by creating more opportunites for other schools to win championships with the creation of the 11AAA football class.  Now the thought of losing precious tourism dollars to the state’s largest city is the final straw.

What the politicans are chosing to ignore, and hope that no one else points out, is how the state currently operates its high school football championship games.  It seems only one city in the state has a facility that has the seating capacity and amenities to make for a viable host for the football finals – Vermillion.  The Dakota Dome has hosted each and every state football championship for more than 30 years and no one has ever suggested it be any different.  But now that Sioux Falls has a facility like no other in South Dakota, it’s somehow wrong to suggest that maybe it might just be the perfect place to become the permanent host of the state basketball tournaments. 

You can’t have it both ways.  Let’s hope our politicians, and other civic and athletic officials around South Dakota figure that out and stop playimg politics with high school sports.

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