Loss of fans, loss of money for Sioux Falls with Summit League tournament change

Summit League Tournament

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Summit League men’s and women’s basketball championships in 2020 finished the same day the South Dakota Department of Health announced the state’s first coronavirus death and the first five cases.

The cases and death were announced on March 10, 2020, the day the basketball championships ended.

The scenario is different for 2021. Summit League officials announced on Thursday that no fans will be allowed at the March 6-9 league tournament.

It is big news for a tournament that has drawn thousands of fans and consistently ranks at least in the top 30 of all NCAA Division I tournaments. Those thousands of fans mean “millions” of dollars of economic impact in the city, Teri Schmidt, the executive director of Experience Sioux Falls has said.

The 2020 men’s total attendance placed the league 25th of all Division I men’s leagues in 2020, according to the NCAA. The four-game tournament drew 24,095 fans at 6,024 fans per game. According to the NCCA, the nine teams in the conference had 131 games and drew a total of 131 252,995 or 1,931 per game.

The women’s tournament and overall season attendance in 2020 placed the league 12th of all Division I women’s league tournaments, according to the NCAA. The four-game tourney drew 25,861 fans at 6,465 fans per game. The total combined 2020 attendance for 134 women’s games including the league tourney was 166,392 or 1,242 per session.

The annual sports event has been in Sioux Falls since 2009.

The city collects tax revenue from sales tax on ticket sales and on facility surcharge on ticket sales.

Sioux Falls benefits from the tournament beyond those ticket sales taxes and fan stops at restaurants, hotels and the like.

Sioux Falls Sports Authority has received a total of $1,510,302.93 in profit from the tournament from 2009 through 2018, Schmidt said in 2019.

Historically, when USD and SDSU men and women are in the tournament and advance to at least the semifinals, attendance is very high. Attendance follows as far as those teams advance and can fall off when the teams are eliminated.

For example, in 2017, the total attendance for the women’s bracket was 21,092, down from 2016 and it would be less than in 2018 and 2019. In 2017, Western Illinois beat Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana (IUPI) in the final game, which drew 2,005 fans.

SDSU was eliminated in the semifinals and USD was eliminated in the opening round. The University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) was also in the semifinal round and that round drew 6,371 fans.

The total attendance for 2019 was 46,837. In four prior years, total attendance was 60,000 or higher with the highest in 2016 at 65,533 fans.

One big reason for the 2019 attendance drop was likely weather.

But the 2019 semifinals of the men’s tournament consisted of mostly of teams that historically don’t draw as well during the regular season as SDSU and USD.

North Dakota State University beat the University of Omaha 73-63 in the final on March 12, 2019.

NDSU drew 29,003 fans to home games in 2019, which was down from 38,601 in 2018. UNO drew 26,788 home fans. The final four also included Western Illinois and Purdue Fort Wayne.

Western Illinois drew 6,061 home fans in 2019. Purdue Fort Wayne drew 21,906. Western Illinois plays in Western Hall with a capacity of 4,421, according to the university’s website.

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