SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has organizers of this year’s Summit League basketball tournament making big changes to keep teams safe.
The league announced Monday that the tournament will be moved from the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center to the Sanford Pentagon and that no fans will be allowed inside.
The league’s commissioner says they wanted to err on the side of caution, even though it will mean a big financial hit for the league and its 16 men’s and women’s teams.
“We were able to help pay travel expenses for our teams and obviously, that’s not going to happen. When you’re flying in from Tulsa, 44 people, those expenses add up,” Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said.
Commissioner Tom Douple says total losses could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he says it will be worth it for the sake of protecting the student-athletes competing in the tournament.
Sioux Falls gets a big boost from the Summit League Tournament.
From restaurants, to hotels, to stores, fans are spending their money all over town.
Basketball means lots of business at the Ramada.
The hotel across the street from the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center is usually full during Summit League tournament time.
“There’s marching bands and everything else you can think of walking through the lobby,” Ramada Sales and Catering Manager Annette Mahone said.
Sales & catering manager Annette Mahone expects some fans will still stay at the hotel come tournament time.
“I’ve talked to a couple people today from Omaha and North Dakota saying, ‘We still want to come and feel the energy of everybody,'” Mahone said.
The executive director of Experience Sioux Falls says having no fans at the tournament will have a drastic impact.
“But the good news is the 16 teams are still coming, the officials are still coming, and those teams and officials will eat and be out an about to some extent,” Experience Sioux Falls Executive Director Teri Schmidt said.
Botski’s by Jono also sees an uptick in customers during the several days of basketball action.
“A lot of South Dakota State fans come in here and when they’re not playing they’ll watch the other games in here. We’ll have a lot of to-go orders,” Botski’s by Jono Owner Mike Klinedinst said.
Owner Mike Klinedinst says much like last year, businesses need to adjust and think outside of the box.
“It’s something that every retail business, every bar and grill, we’ve done it all year long,” Klinedinst said.
“Maybe coming up with ideas of getting a group together in a room and watching the game on a big screen and eating pizza or however they want to do it. They’ll always figure out something. We’ll put our heads together and figure out something,” Mahone said.
Schmidt says they’re looking forward to next year and she hopes fans will be able to be back at the tournament.