Basketball: Some future Final 8 sites to ponder

It is possible the men's Final 8 might stay in Halifax for a good long time, especially if Atlantic University Sport is willing to make certain financial guarantees.

There is a sentiment it is time to take the tournament around the country. No other major team sport has a fixed venue. Let's pretend hypotheticals such as having a basketball floor and being willing to pay the piper (the event is a big cash cow, since basketball has a lower overhead than football) are addressed. What cities and schools offer a combo of good support, a solid team and an appropriate mid-sized venue. Off the top of one's head:
  • Saskatchewan (Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon): The new national champions play in a province which will support just about anything sporting, and Saskatoon offers a modern but not overly large venue with flexible seating capacity which can go up to 11,000. The city already did a good job with the 2006 Vanier Cup.

  • UBC (Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, Vancouver): This hinges on what direction the UBC athletics program takes (NCAA?), but it did not get a 6,800-seat hockey arena on campus for the sake of the status quo. It would only be fair, too, to let Alberta and B.C. teams have a chance to play closer to home after travelling 2-4 time zones for more than a quarter-century and counting.

  • Windsor (WFCU Centre): One does wonder how push there will be to direct semi-major sporting fare toward the City of Roses, since neighbouring Detroit got a Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four in a short span.

    Windsor is a finalist to have the OHL's Spitfires host the 2011 Memorial Cup at the 7,000-seat WFCU Centre, which would be a good size for the Final 8. The question is whether the university and the city's business core have deep enough pockets. Windsor is the school which has the longest-tenured OUA football coach since it cannot afford to reassign him until his contract expires.

    The St. Denis Centre would also make a good site for the women's Final 8. It is worth noting since (a) there is no host site for the 2012 women's Final 8 and (b) coach Chantal Vallée's Lancers are defending champion among schools staying in CIS.

    Both Windsor and Saskatoon, among others, would have to trouble-shoot displacing a major junior hockey team for a week either at the end of its regular season or start of its playoffs. People saying the three Ottawa Final 8s should have been at Urbandale Centre might have wanted to keep that in mind. (Then again, it's less of an issue if it's held earlier so not to coincide with the NCAAs.)

  • McMaster (Copps Coliseum, Hamilton): Marauders men's coach Joe Raso, in wake of the women's tourney in the Hammer two weeks ago, resurrected a long-standing idea about hosting the men's tourney. Hamilton has a fairly knowledge, passionate fanbase, so there's a lot to like about the idea. Copps (17,383 for hockey) might be a little large and is also one of the older buildings on this list.

  • Western (John Labatt Centre, London): The JLC (9,100 for hockey) hosts NBA exhibition games (Global Spectrum, which manages the arena, has some tie to the Philadelphia 76ers), so setting up for b-ball would not be an issue.

    Besides, it would be a good show that Western is a good sports school for all seasons and has evolved well past "the three seasons: football, football recruiting and spring football" phase. Mustangs athletic director Thérèse Quigley is not averse to being big and bold.
A couple of reaches:
  • Ryerson (the renovated Maple Leaf Gardens): A fan who might be moving to Toronto soon can dream, can't he?

  • Laval (new Quebec City arena): Football fans should not be the only ones to experience a CIS championship hosted by Laval.

    The sticking point is that Laval is out in suburban Ste-Foy and presumably any arena built in hope of resurrecting Les Nordiques would be far from campus.

  • Queen's (K-Rock Centre, Kingston): Only in here to point out another Kingston Frontenacs owner Doug Springer will never let another team host a national championship at the K-Rock Centre, his petty fiefdom that he doesn't actually own or operate. You have to keep dates available for that huge playoff run (all the way to the second round!) that he's been promising Kingston since 1998, don't you know.

    In no way is this a suggestion Springer and his Frontenacs (halfway to being swept in the first round) is actively trying to sandbag another Kingston team's bid to land a national tournament ... in no way whatsoever.

    The new Queen's Centre, meantime, would be ideal for the women's Final 8 or a men's regional, should need for the latter ever arise.
Feel free to suggest others. Mentioning the Halifax Metro Centre is kind of obvious since it is next season's site already.
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  1. Actually, Credit Union Centre now has near-NHL seating capacity in the 15,000-seat range, not just 11,000 . . . There is talk about possibly bidding for the University Cup men's hockey tournament once again, also. Saskatoon set all kinds of attendance records while hosting the event in 1998, 1999 and 2000 — even without the U of S Huskies ever reaching the final. There were over 10,000 (11,000 or so) for a semifinal game against UNB in 2000. Basketball's FInal 8 would be a good fit in Saskatoon, providing Saskatoon still has a competitive team!

  2. When it comes to the Vanier Cup, University Cup and other MAJOR CIS events, you can be assured that Saskatoon (University of Saskatchewan) will do an outstanding job as host and that the city and media will support it whole-heartedly. There may be a temptation, however, for the U of S to be politically correct and bid on not-so-major events just to spread it around. In the past, this has backfired — particularly with the CIS women's v'ball national tournament, which, I'm told, lost money for its two-year run. Don't know how well the CIS women's b'ball tournament did financially.
    The Vanier Cup and University Cup were huge financial successes. A CIS FInal 8 also has this sort of potential, but, I agree, the U of S needs to have a competitive squad. Glover is gone after next season. They also need immediate replacements for Linklater, Gottselig and Clint Unsworth.

  3. Thanks. Damn those out-of-date wikipedia entries!

    University Cup might be even better.

  4. While Copps Coliseum is older than the other buildings listed, it is newer than the Halifax Metro Centre and in considerably better condition. The majority of the seats were replaced 3 years ago, so the seating is very recent and comfortable. The upper bowl of the arena is curtained off for AHL games limiting seating to the lower bowl which seats about 10,000 and with 5-6,000 fans in attendance, creates a great atmosphere. The facility is also scheduled for further renovations related to Hamilton's participation as a host for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

    Copps also has a solid legacy of hosting basketball events, including NBA pre-season games, World Championship of Basketball games, and many CIS games, including some of the largest crowds to witness CIS basketball.

    Being in the heart of the downtown core with access to everything that was missing in Ottawa is something else Hamilton could offer.

    I have no knowledge if a Hamilton bid is forthcoming, but I'm confident the city would do the event proud if it put forward a host bid.

  5. I think the Windsor FCU arena would be ideal. The arena is not to big...probably fitted for about 7,000 basketball fans. It isn't downtown...but there is FREE parking(lots of) and many restuarants within 1 km. The site will likely be a terrific site within the next 5-7 years once the immediate area is developed according to plan. There are proposals for shopping, restaurants and hotels within the arena footprint, making it into a eastside downtown. This venue should be a strong contender for future national tournaments.

  6. Have to disagree with Bill re: Copps. I've been to way too many half-empty AHL games there that I have to say the atmosphere would be dead were they to play basketball in that arena without McMaster (or Brock or someone close) in the game.

    Plus, it's one thing to experience the women's tournament in Westdale; quite another to make everyone go to downtown Hamilton. I just don't see Copps as a Final 8 location.

  7. Expect Ryerson to make a play for the Nationals coinciding with the new look MLG. Great on them if it happens.

  8. i think that this is a great discussion thread. i believe that the championship should be rotated through the various conferences, assuming there is interest to do so. i dislike the concept of having the championship for multiple years for many reasons and i live in eastern ontario. scotiabank is a terrible place for this kind of event and the organizing committee did nothing to bring fans closer to the action. each of the areas identified above would be great venues so long as people don't believe that arena's with capacities bigger than 10000 will ever be filled. let's get back to hosting events in filled venues so the fans can really enjoy the basketball and be part of an event

  9. KRock Center?
    There was a spot on the radio about the Vees bid to host the RBC cup. The two main arenas would be the Invista Center and MEMORIAL CENTER. Why? Because the frontenacs have reserved the KRock pot in case they make it to the conference finals.
    HA HA HA

  10. Forget about the WFCU Centre and the Final 8. It's a nice facility but at 6500 seats is almost too small to make money without charging ridiculous ticket prices. And with Windsor being one of the most depressed areas in Canada, there would be little corporate sponsor support available. Junior hockey is a different animal than CIS sports. One can't miss and one is a big gamble.

  11. Thunder Bay, site of the Cavendish University Cup this year and last year, may be another possible site. Central location in Canada. A real sports town, too.
    The old hockey rink isn't a bad size for a CIS Final 8 hoops haven . . . T-Bay may not be ready to host another prime-time CIS event for a few years, however.
    Saskatoon's CUC has the option of curtaining off the top portion of seating to give it a more intimate feel with lower-bowl seating only.
    I'd like to see the U of S and Huskie Athletics continue to pursue big-time events like the University Cup, Final 8 basketball and Vanier Cup —— these are cash cows that can help fund all of the Huskie programs — — rather than trying to be politically correct and bid for things that have far less mass appeal and could potentially lose money like, say a women's national hockey championship or whatever.

  12. Putting the games at SBP was a mistake. I know that there are reasons it couldn't happen logistically ('67s) and financially, but it would have made so much more sense to put the CIS Final 8 at the Civic Centre in Ottawa. For cripes sake - it's on bus lines that basically go directly to the two universities in Ottawa!

    If I was a student at either Carleton or Ottawa, the thought of getting myself on a bus to go all the way out to SBP would have deterred me from going. But a short hop to Lansdowne would have been fine. Plus, the atmosphere would have been much better in a 10,000-seat arena. They would have sold out the Ravens games easily, and would have had a respectable showing for the rest of them.

  13. How many bus lines go right to SBP? Oh, that's right.

  14. Cantankerous3/23/2010 1:54 pm

    Don't blame the Ottawa 67's for "logistical" reasons.
    The City of Ottawa owns the Civic Centre and given the way Lansdowne Park
    management screws around their major tenant...bringing in trade shows
    while the 67's scramble for playoff dates...there's no way CU could
    have cut a workable deal with the city.
    In fact, it's too bad Carleton didn't have someone like Jeff Hunt on board, who knows a thing or two about marketing.
    There is virtually NO public transport to SBP...the closest bus is route # 96
    and you would have to walk a half mile to the arena from the nearest stop.
    Copps Coliseum would be a disaster, for the all the same reasons it didn't work in Kanata.
    Bad location and a venue that is way too big and warehouse like.

  15. There were NO buses going to SBP for the Final 8. The 400 series buses weren't in operation for the event.

  16. Paul- - X fan3/23/2010 2:25 pm

    I have to question most of the comments. Heck i'd love to have the thing in my backyard too.
    But how do we define "do a good job" ;
    -is it fans in the seats for all games including for games with 2 teams NOT from town?
    - is it cash rebates to participating schools to offset costs?
    -Is it pricing gurantees to the CIS?

    Over the years Halifax has had good numbers (+3500)out for all games incl games where 2 out of maritimes teams were playing.

  17. To Cantankerous,

    Have you ever been to Copps Coliseum? It is located in the city's downtown core and is attached to a shopping mall and a 4-star hotel. There is another 4-Star hotel directly across the street, and a third hotel 1/2 a km away. It is also about a 10 minute walk from the Bus Station. Is completely accessible by public transit from the entire community and the suburbs, including Burlington. If you think Copps is too big, just say that. To say it has the same problems as being in Kanata is just wrong. BTW, the venue has successfully hosted numerous CIS basketball events.

  18. Copps is too big....that's something I like to avoid from now least until the "brand" is such that we sell out no matter where the finals are held. We should strive to play the final in sold out arena. Period.

  19. Re: Quebec City

    Why would you need a new arena? La Colisée would be fine, especially if they can curtain off the upper deck. There is also the Pavillon de Jeunesse in the same complex that seats about 5,000 - which is about 5x the amount needed for most consolation games....

    That said, I'm not sure how happy the rest of the country would be with a five-team league getting two automatic berths.

  20. I'll second 3:24. To me, the criteria were such (not in any ascending or descending order) ... good-sized modern arena (6,000-12,000 seats), good location, a market where there is a strong identification with a CIS team, and good support for basketball.

    The point was to draw out suggestions ... the Langley Events Centre (Trinity Western) is in there. Abbotsford, B.C., has an AHL team, so maybe even Fraser Valley is a possibility somewhere well down the line.

  21. @6:01. The 5-team QSSF had two auto berths in the women's hockey championship this season.

  22. Yes, but they DESERVED them.

  23. Not to get off point, but why did No. 9 Montréal deserve to go? Because McGill won the national title the season before when the Carabins didn't even play in the league? That makes sense. There were two Canada West teams (Manitoba and Alberta) ranked ahead of the U de M.

  24. Whenever a major national or international event is held at CUC in Saskatoon, the city provides free bus service to get there and the host encourages fans to take the bus. So, even though Credit Union Centre is in the outskirts of Saskatoon, and not even close to downtown, it is accessible because host committees in Saskatoon know what they're doing. They're the best at hosting big events, volunteer-wise, but the city and U of S have to be careful to pick and choose their athletic passionate poison. You can't hold them all, and, I agree, they'd be better off funneling their resources to a few bigger events — like the Vanier Cup, University Cup and maybe this CIS Final 8 — then trying to play host to them all, like they seem to have wanted in the past.

  25. The fact there were no 400-series buses in operation just seals it. The failure of the Final 8 in Ottawa isn't on the city, it has to be on the organizers and whoever thought such an event could fly from SBP.

    It's a pity, because a Carleton championship in 2009 at the Civic Centre would have been an event in Ottawa, and would have really given the organizers something to build on coming into this year's tournament.

  26. Copps Coliseum is not too big, once you cordon off the upper bowl and the lower bowl end seats, replacing them with courtside seats. Unlike some of the other suggestions, there is a good solid tradition of Hamilton supporting CIS basketball.

    I've been to the WFCU Centre in Windsor- beautiful facility, but I would not say that it is centrally located. It's close to a residential neighbourhood. I guess if you're invited to George and Martha's for dinner, you're close to an eatry.