This past week, the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee and Championship Coordinator Tom Jacobs let representatives seven cities know that they were invited to come to Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Not just for a little rest and relaxation, but also to let them give a formal presentation for the purpose of debating where the 2004-2006 Frozen Fours would be held.
The bid process began earlier this year when the NCAA openly solicited bids for the three Frozen Fours. Interested parties were given until June 1, 2000, to get their applications in. The committee then had a conference call and, this past Wednesday, the field was narrowed to seven finalists.
The bid package that prospective sites had to submit included several criteria that each site had to fulfill. Among these criteria were:
These are just samplings of what each site had to prepare.
There were 14 prospective sites that submitted bids by June 1. Those sites were (in alphabetical order, with arena and bidders):
Only half of these sites survived the cut.
Why were Albany, Anaheim, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Grand Forks, Madison and Orlando cut from the list? There are a few possible reasons.
“The building is very important for the players, and that’s the most important thing we’re looking at,” said Bill Wilkinson, head coach at Wayne State and chair of the Ice Hockey Committee. “That we can get a quality building, similar to the Providence Civic Center, with hotels nearby and all the amenities that go with it, that’s the key.
“We don’t want to have the players 10, 15 miles away from the facility because it becomes a bus trip every time they go to practice and the games. The easier it is on the players, the better.”
This was a major concern in Anaheim, and is probably one of the reasons that city was struck from the list. The other possibility is that Anaheim was being compared against San Jose as a potential finalist, and the San Jose bid was better than that of its California neighbor.
“You probably won’t see an arena with under 15,000 seats,” said Jack McDonald, athletic director at Quinnipiac and member of the Ice Hockey Committee.
That would strike Albany, Cincinnati and Grand Forks from the list.
Madison was probably knocked off because it was being compared to Milwaukee — a site that has already hosted Frozen Fours.
The best guess as to Atlanta’s unsuccessful bid would probably be the lack of an association with a collegiate hockey institution. After all, Georgia State is not well known for their hockey program. This would probably partially apply to Anaheim’s bid as well.
And Orlando’s bid was likely hampered by its distance and the lack of arena facilities.
“If there was a perfect world, and if Disney World had a big arena, it would be a no-brainer,” said McDonald on the Orlando bid. “But it was a 15-20 minute ride between sites, so that didn’t help.”
A little more than one month from now, seven groups will give presentations that will, they hope, bring college hockey’s crown jewel to their city.
“Each city is given an hour to an hour and a half to come in and make a presentation to the committee, to tell us about their facility, tell us about their hotels, tell us about their transportation, everything that goes on with running the tournament,” said Tom Jacobs, the NCAA Director of Championships. “It’s a chance for them to try to sell their community to the hockey committee and try to convince them that’s the place to go.”
What exactly is important to the committee and what do they intend to look for?
“The bottom line are two criteria,” said McDonald. “I can’t weight one over the other. One is the financial guarantee and the other is the atmosphere for the fans and the players.
“If we all had a perfect world, we would like to see Providence have 20,000 seats. Because of their atmosphere, Boston’s atmosphere, Albany’s atmosphere.
“The other thing is financial. For example, there was a significant amount of money generated in Boston. That’s because a lot of the officials, teams, fans were all from the area, so the net cost and the ticket guarantee, and considering what it costs for the NCAA to put it on, is considered. All things considered, the financial success of Anaheim, considering it was 3,000 miles away, was pretty good. [Factor in] what it took to get all the teams to play out there, and the net receipts for the tournament dropped.”
Said Jacobs, “I think anybody that can return that sort of investment back to the Association [should be considered]. Out of 81 championships, there’s very few that actually operate at a profit when you take into account the fact that we pay transportation and per diem costs for all the teams for the entire tournament, and that’s true for all our championships. And with men’s basketball paying for all 64 teams in the tournament, you can imagine those costs get to be pretty staggering.
“Ice hockey has been one of a handful of championships that have operated at a profit over the last several years. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago when we were at the Fleet Center, I think we did end up generating about $875,000 to the Association. That money doesn’t necessarily go back to the hockey tournament. It goes back to the overall pool of money that’s then distributed back to the membership.
“It is a big responsibility for us and for the committee to try to pick sites where we are going to maximize that type of revenue because in the big picture in the end, it all goes back to member schools, so we’re able to return more money to them by going to places such as Boston that generate that sort of profit. Most years, we’re pretty consistent in terms of revenue generation behind the men’s basketball tournament.”
There will be many things to consider come July when the seven sites make their bids and no one really knows exactly how the committee will be swayed by the presentations.