Thousands of spectators are expected head to Glens Falls for the return of a statewide high school basketball tournament this weekend. But the long-term sports future in the city is once again unclear.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association Boys’ Basketball Championships will return to the Glens Falls Civic starting Friday afternoon and running through Sunday.
The Civic Center has been home to the state tourney ever since its rebirth three decades ago. Jeremy Heulsing, general manager of the venue, said this year, thousands are expected to attend.
“We’re exepcting anywhere between 15 and 20,000 to come through the doors this year,” said Heulsing. “There’s actually three Section 2 teams that are participating this year so we’re hoping for big crowds again.”
The event is at the center of one of the largest destination weekends for Glens Falls, and is an important weekend for local businesses and hotels.
Glens Falls Mayor “Jack” Diamond is also anticipating the tournament.
“The community just comes out for this particular weekend. This is our March Madness,” said Diamond. “The NCAA has their tournament, but at Glens Falls this is what we call our March Madness.”
Diamond has made it a top priority of his to return another sport, American League Hockey, to the Civic Center. Currently, the Adirondack Phantoms — a temporary resident that relocated from Philadelphia five years ago — are set to play their final home game at the Civic Center in April, before relocating to Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Without the guarantee of another hockey team to return for next season, Heulsing said the Civic Center is tasked with finding new events to take the home-game slots.
“As of right now there’d be essentially 38 more available dates to book shows, so just as we do every year, we’re actively looking to fill as many dates as possible,” said Heulsing. “Without a hockey team that becomes obviously more of an emphasis, so we’ll look bring more concerts, family shows, any other type of events to the Glens Falls Civic Center.”
The Civic Center had been the host of the Federation Basketball Tournament, usually held the week after the state tourney, until 2011, when it was moved to the Times Union Center in Albany.
As outlined in his State of the City address earlier this year, Mayor Diamond also said he is also continuing to develop a strategy to get other local governments to financially support the Civic Center, possibly by setting up a regional Civic Center authority.
“When they constructed the building back in ’79…they actually set up an authority but they never executed in that matter, but if you look at other buildings similar to ours, they all run on a larger mass of people, such as an authority,” said Diamond.
On its current bid, the Glens Falls Civic Center will host the championship for the next three years.
Also this weekend, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Girls’ Basketball Championships will be held at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.