SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The stage is set for the Summit League Basketball Championships Tuesday in Sioux Falls, which marks the 15th consecutive year the trophies have been hoisted in the city.

The tournament has a rich history in the city with champions crowned in three different venues in town since moving here.

“In 2009, we went out to bid, and Sioux Falls at that time put together the absolute best bid, won the vote, we came here and really didn’t know what to expect, but the community completely embraced the event,” the Summit League deputy commissioner Myndee Kay Larsen said.

Since the league’s founding in 1982, the tournament has moved around to various locations until landing in Sioux Falls in 2009.

Kay Larsen is in her 17th year with the league. She’s played and coached in the basketball tournament in the past.

“It’s been a different look each city, and it’s grown and improved, and so I think we’re really making a mark with the event,” Kay Larsen said.

Experience Sioux Falls CEO Teri Schmidt says the impact of the tournament is widespread economically and brings exposure to Sioux Falls.

The tournament moved here from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I remember back when we first, when a group of us took a trip down to Tulsa to look The Summit League over, and then we came back and did the bid to try to bring them here, and I look at the different between Tulsa and Sioux Falls and realizing the impact that that tournament has on this community,” Schmidt said.

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The Sioux Falls Sports Authority also played a part in bringing the event to Sioux Falls.

“I think as the tournament grew here, it was a perfect geographical location. The fans, the sponsors, the hotel community, the hospitality community, really showed out for it, and I think, I hope that The Summit League felt enough love for that to want to continue staying here,” SF Sports Authority executive director Thomas Lee said.

The Sioux Falls Arena was home to the event from 2009-2014 with a capacity for roughly 6,500 fans.

“The arena was fun just because it was like bursting at the seams, and you just felt like it was going to explode at any moment,” Kay Larsen said.

In 2015, the tournament moved to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center when the venue was only months old — nearly doubling in capacity.

PREMIER Center director of operations Jeff Gortmaker says the change made a huge difference.

“We did a lot of things in the old arena, makeshift methods, lot of alterations. We built temporary rooms for interviews with teams and such on. We struggled with locker room space a lot over there. We only have four small locker rooms. Up here, we have a whole suite of locker rooms, so the facility as a whole just makes it much much easier than it was years ago,” Gortmaker said.

“Top of the line technology. Better locker rooms. Just such an upgrade from the arena. So not just like in terms of fan experience but also like student-athlete experience getting to move into the newer building and getting to be in like an NBA-type quality arena was really crucial,” Kay Larsen said.

And it’s been in the PREMIER Center ever since, with the exception of 2021 in the Sanford Pentagon in front of limited fans because of COVID-19.

“Hard to believe we’re going on nine years already. It is much easier. The facility is built for this sort of events. The capacities for getting people, getting out is much better. We have much better premium seating abilities. Just a good facility in general,” Gortmaker said.

The current contract with the PREMIER Center goes through 2025.

“We know that there are other communities that want this tournament in their town, and who wouldn’t? But we also know that we’ve got the support, not only from the business community, but from the region, as far as people coming here to see this tournament,” Schmidt said

Schmidt says the economic impact of the tournament is around $3 million on average, but they hope to see that grow this year.

“This year, they’ve added a day. There’s going to be more people here. They’re going to be here longer we hope, so we might see that number go up,” she said.

“There will be 60,000 fans there this week, maybe more. And the support that the hotels, and the restaurants and the hospitality service has shown the league and shown the fans over the years, I think is immense,” Lee said.

The Summit League also moved its headquarters to Sioux Falls in 2018 — just minutes away from where they host their premier basketball tournament.

“We are so grateful for what Sioux Falls has helped the tournament become. There’s always going to be opportunities to grow and look around and things like that, but I don’t think we’ll ever take for granted what this community did and the way they’ve embraced it,” Kay Larsen said.

“There’s always a chance anybody could find a better deal or decide they want to move, so we don’t take anything for granted. We work hard every year to make sure that this is the best town for The Summit League, and we’ll continue to do that,” Schmidt said.

Tuesday is championship day of the tournament, and you can keep up with the action on our sports page.