From left, Wausau Newman fans Allison Brill, Abby Brown, Emily Fox and Sarah Beilke cheer as their basketball team takes the floor for warmups before the WIAA State Girls Basketball Tournament Division 5 semifinal game against Wisconsin Rapids Assumption at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon on Thursday. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
Hampton Inn Green Bay staff posted a support message on their marquee for the Milton High School girls basketball team, which is staying at the hotel for the WIAA state tournament at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. The hotel is located at 2840 Ramada Way in Ashwaubenon. / Charles Davis/Press-Gazette Media
ASHWAUBENON — The Milton Red Hawks girls basketball team has found a new nest.
Hampton Inn Green Bay is decked out in the high school’s colors of red, white and black for the team’s trip to the WIAA girls state basketball tournament at the Resch Center. The team plays Green Bay Notre Dame at 1:35 p.m. today in the Division 2 semifinals. And hotel general manager Lawry Larson is hoping they pull out a win against the local team and stay for a third night.
“We want them to not only feel welcome, but we want them to come back,” he said Thursday standing in the lobby near an enlarged photo of the school’s mascot, an arrangement of balloons and hanging banners on the ceiling. Located at 2840 Ramada Way, the hotel’s marquee reads “Go Milton Red Hawks Good Luck,” and staff attached posters to the players’ room doors and placed specialty chocolates on their pillows. Larson said he was even able to reserve seating for the team at a casual dine-in restaurant that typically does not allow reservations.
The first 37 girls’ tournaments were held in Madison, but the event moved to the Resch Center this year. The three-day competition, which features 20 teams from five divisions, is set to be held here again next year. Larson hopes it’s the start of a lasting partnership that could pour millions into the area each year.
“We got it, and we’re not going to let it go,” he said with a smile.
According to the WIAA, 17 hotels in the area are housing teams, and Larson said many have found special ways to support them.
Thousands of fans flocked Thursday to the Resch Center for the first day of the tournament. School spirit was alive and well as many students wore wacky costumes, including a group of three girls who wore capes and held super-sized photos of themselves making goofy faces. Others in the crowd wore jumbo-sized hats, tie-dyed shirts and bright suspenders.
Deb Hauser, WIAA associate director, said the Resch Center’s proximity to several hotels and restaurantsmakes travel simple.
“It’s very easy to get in and out of here with the Lambeau (Field) parking,” she said of the lot across the street from the arena.
Many fans said they planned to also shop in the area and dine out.
Jodi Malin of Barneveld was there to see her village’s D5 high school team play and said she planned today to visit the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and other attractions.
Julie Novak of Eau Claire enjoyed the vendors lined up along the arena concourse and said one of her daughters may later shop at local stores for a prom dress.
“We’ve been to Madison a lot, so it’s fun to do something different,” she said.
—email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.