It's the hottest ticket in town and it doesn't get underway until this weekend. We're talking about the Summit League Basketball Tournament in Sioux Falls.
While March Madness is in the air, it's taking many more months to pull off one of the premier events for this area. If you said excitement is building for the Summit League Basketball Tournament that would be an understatement.
"Just walking down the street and talking to people, mention Summit League and people know what you're talking about," executive director of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority Wes Hall said.
But putting on a Division 1 tournament of this size is no slam dunk. It takes months of preparation, planning and recruiting.
"It's a group effort. There is tremendous support throughout the city for this event. People love this. I don't know how many volunteers I've run into and when they introduce themselves, they always let me know how many years they've worked the tournament," Hall said.
Hall says it takes close to 400 volunteers to help pull off the weekend event.
This will be Bob Thimjon's fifth year as a volunteer.
"To me, this has always been a big item for Sioux Falls. What can we do to have Division 1 basketball in Sioux Falls, to have a tournament like this in town. It's good for citizens and it's good for business," Thimjon said.
The Summit Tournament brings in an estimated $3 million to the city, but it also brings exposure.
"It's always a nice benefit when you watch ESPN and you see clips from the Sioux Falls Arena," Thimjon said.
Jason Richards is a project director for the Sioux Falls Sports Authority.
"My job with the Summit is to make sure everything that needs to be in place for the operations is there to go smoothly," Richards said.
To do that, they all rely heavily on a special pamphlet. It's a script, if you will, for everyone to follow. And it's all about timing.
"If you get three minutes to do the national anthem and that includes color guard that's all you have, you want to make sure you make that happen," Hall said.
Every detail has to be coordinated down to the second, including TV timeouts and half-time performances.
"We know when that has to happen, how long that should take and when the teams come on the court. Ball racks out; ball racks back in. Teams off the floor," Hall said.
This is Richards first year with the Summit. He's been involved in the planning of the women's Final Four in Denver, but says people are passionate about basketball in this area.
"The excitement level in this town, they're just as excited about this tournament as they were about a Final Four," Richards said.
The Summit League Tournament continues to break record attendance numbers, year after year. And now with USD in the mix, organizers are expecting even bigger things.
All the planning, organizing and work that goes into putting on a tournament of this magnitude can be stressful, but Hall says once the lights go on and the ball is in the air, they can sit back and watch the show.
"It's kind of one of those, I just wait to get through that first half of the first game, then I can kind of catch my breath because at that point, the tournament is running itself," Hall said.
Tickets for next year's Summit League tournament go on sale at noon on Friday, March 8 and they expect a line.
KELOLAND Sports plans to have extensive coverage of the Summit League Tournament. Check out the 2013 Summit League Tournament page on KELOLAND.com for more on what you can expect.