Feb 19, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterThere's no question that two of the great high school athletic events our county hosts annually are the Class 1-A West regional basketball tournaments in Lander and the Class 2-A West regional basketball tournaments in Riverton.
They are coming up again starting Thursday.
Fans from western Wyoming pack our gyms, restaurants and hotels as their smaller-town boys and girls basketball teams play their hearts out for state tournament berths.
Administrators in Lander want to continue hosting their 1-A tournaments, but Riverton's commitment seems less certain.
"We'll keep it. I've never had any discussions with anybody about moving it anywhere. We're centrally located, we can accommodate them, and without us, it is going to be a struggle for them. I feel we have a geographic obligation to those kids, and it's great for our community. I enjoy it," Lander Valley High School activities director Barry Scott said.
Riverton's school support for the Class 2-A regional tournaments apparently is eroding.
Preliminary contacts are being floated to move the tournament away from Riverton at least every other year, according to Riverton High School activities director Jeremy Hill.
There are lots of reasons, Hill says, that the idea of moving the tournament is being explored. Those ideas include accommodating administrators and tournament workers who want to attend the state wrestling tournament held the same weekend annually in Casper; wanting to "do what is best for Riverton's athletes"; creating a hybrid Saturday schedule with Riverton varsity games in between Class 2-A games that may not be fair to Class 2-A fans; the fiscal impacts of hosting the tournament; and concerns about Riverton's academic school calendar.
Hill said many of these concerns will be addressed with Class 2-A coaches in a meeting Friday.
"I think the important thing to discuss is for them to understand the strain it puts on our community to host this tournament every year and that we need them to provide security help and ticket taker help. We ran an ad for two weeks this fall trying to get workers to help for $9 an hour for our activities. We had one taker. I would implore our community to step up," Hill said.
But our school administrators need to step up too. Solutions abound to keep this tournament in Riverton, where it belongs, and we ought to fight to do so.
Jim Davis, the executive director of the Riverton Chamber of Commerce, says he is ready and willing to assist the district in appropriately using lodging tax funds (as is done in other communities) to help fund hospitality rooms and other tournament expenses with the tournament that brings hundreds of thousands of dollars to our county.
Both the Riverton boys and girls basketball teams absolutely love playing home games in the atmosphere of the weekend just prior to Class 2-A championship games. It's a great tournament prep for our athletes. Any coach will tell you the same.
School District 25 leaders have said time and time again that they want to use our central location to attract activities. Whenever possible, that is an important promise for the district to keep.
Rocky Mountain High School administrator Tim Winland said that until rumors started circulating about a possible tournament move, the thought about getting the tournament moved up north had not been discussed seriously.
"Now the idea is getting traction," Winland said.
And Cody is ready to at least explore having the tournament there.
"I don't remember how it got started. I think somebody came to us and asked us if we would be interested in doing it. I think we could do a good job hosting it. We'll always try to do anything to help our community, and I've talked to our principal and superintendent about it," Cody activities director Tony Hult said, adding that he needs to understand more about the details of what it would mean to host the tournament and that he has not visited with representative from Class 2-A.
Hult is a Riverton High School graduate and former Wolverine sports standout.
It's true that hosting any tournament is work. But it pays dividends to our community and, administered correctly, can pay dividends for our school.
Let's all of us -- school and community members alike -- work together to keep what most believe is a good tournament for Riverton to have.
It would be a shame for Riverton and our county to lose the 2-A West regional tournament. Instead, let's fight like Wolverines to keep it.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
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