While the MAAC tournament will descend on Albany for the second of their three-year deal this March, the conference will already be in the middle stags of deciding the tournament’s future.
Two familiar sites to the MAAC have put in bids to host the next bid cycle of tournaments for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons: Albany’s Times Union Center and Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena. Albany has become the conference’s most popular host in conference history, having hosted 16 times entering this year. Bridgeport has hosted twice in the last decade. However a third neutral-site has made a bid: the currently renovating Nassau Coliseum.
The Long Island facility is going under renovations, which are estimated to cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Hofstra recently announced that they will be playing in the arena’s first sporting event against Kentucky on Dec. 10, 2016. Construction broke ground on Nov. 5 for the renovations, which plan to build a destination with entertainment beyond an arena. Ensor said the facility is being downsized, to approximately 10,000 seats, and that the organizers are trying to attract events using their pitch of a neutral site.
“They put together an attractive bid and they’re stressing the neutrality,” Ensor said. “It’s neutral, in the sense that nobody plays there regularly, but it’s certainly within our sweet spot as far as school location.”
The last experiment with moving the conference tournament to a neutral site ended when Manhattan defeated Iona on Mar. 10, 2014. Three years in Springfield, Massachusetts were unsuccessful in attracting fans to a neutral location. However, a possible move to Long Island would bring the conference closer to the metro area and plenty of the league’s fan bases.
“It’s a big recruitment area for general admissions to the schools and it’s got a big catholic high school base,” Ensor said. “It’s a good location. That being said, I really don’t know what people think about it and it’s not finished yet either, that’s always problematic.”
The conference will begin assessing the sites in January, culminating in a decision during their spring presidents meetings in New York City.
“We’ll see when we get in the room and people start discussing the different options,” Ensor said. “I think all these work well for us.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.