Welcome to the teams, officials and fans in town for the girls state basketball tournament.
That's something we have not been able to say because the tournament has been held in Madison since 1976. But when scheduling conflicts at the Kohl Center in Madison had the WIAA looking elsewhere, PMI Entertainment Group submitted a strong bid and received a two-year commitment to host the tournament at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
The three-day tournament gets under way today. It's been something area and PMI officials as well as business owners have been planning and preparing for since the announcement in April.
Hopefully the two-year commitment becomes permanent. And that's the way the WIAA is approaching the tournament, according to Deb Hauser, associate director for the WIAA. "I do believe this is a great place for this tournament," she said Wednesday.
The Green Bay area appealed to the WIAA for several reasons:
? The arena's size of 10,000 seats will make it less cavernous for crowds that have been historically smaller than at the boys tournament, thus enhancing the crowd noise.
? For teams and fans, it's easy getting to the Resch Center and there's abundant parking, which will cost $6 this year and next.
? The hotels and their family friendly rates as well as entertainment in the vicinity of the Resch Center appealed to the WIAA.
Throw in the fact that the teams will also get a mini-tour of Lambeau Field today and Friday and you have a strong bid for this tournament.
For the players, the site might not matter; getting to the state tournament and winning it were the big goals.
But for the Green Bay area, it's a different story. "It's a big event for our community," said Cora Haltaufderheid, chief operating officer for PMI, which operates the Resch Center.
The players, coaches, officials and fans will be staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants, visiting our stores and businesses.
To be sure, their presence represents an economic opportunity for area businesses, but it also represents an opportunity to showcase an area that's well-known for the pro football team but could become well-known as the site of the girls state basketball tournament as well.
As she surveyed the finishing touches to the basketball court Wednesday, Haltaufderheid emphasized the need to make a good first impression. "We need to fill this house," she said.
She's right. A good turnout at the games will make the Resch Center and the Green Bay area seem like home to these teams and their followers.
So we encourage area residents to make the visitors feel welcome, feel at home, and to check out the games this weekend. You'll see the best girls basketball teams in the state in one setting and you'll be part of the excitement.
Even if your school isn't represented at the state tournament, you can represent your city and show the WIAA that the Resch should be the future home of the girls tourney.