Basketball fans react to Washington D.C. as a tournament location
WASHINGTON D.C. — The addition of Maryland and Rutgers into the Big Ten Conference a few years ago opened large east coast markets to the flair of the Midwest. As the Big Ten expanded eastward, it unlocked cities such as Washington D.C., Baltimore and New York City.
For the first time, the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament was located at the Verizon Center in the nation’s capital meaning teams and fans would have to travel greater distances in order to watch their team play. The tournament has been held at the United Center in Chicago and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. in years past, both central points in the midwest.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said those two locations will continue to be the main hosts for the tournament.
“So this is a new region for us, but we couldn't be more pleased with the fit between Maryland and Rutgers and other Big Ten institutions,” Delany said in 2014. “They truly reflect in every way, as I mentioned earlier, on the academic and athletic commitment to their student-athletes.”
When it comes to ticket sales and filling up the arena, that is up to the fans. The Verizon Center holds 18,277 people, slightly bigger than Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but smaller than the United Center.
Jeremy Janssen, a Michigan fan originally from Waterford, Mich., now lives out on the east coast, where his daughter attends Maryland.
“I just wonder, ‘How many fans will show up?’,” he said. “Hopefully it is not too much of a burden on people but there’s a lot of Big Ten fans in the area.”
Janssen was able to attend the Big Ten Tournament with his father Jim. Supporting their Maize and Blue, Jim now resides in Asheville, N.C.
“My daughter texted him and she said to him, ‘Are you going to the championship?’ and he said ‘Yeah it is in D.C. at the Verizon,’ Jim said, “I said, ‘Oh wow I don’t get BTN on my T.V. that sucks,’ so he said, ‘Well why don’t you come up and watch it live.”
Jim experienced the same long travel as many Big Ten teams faced. His nine-hour drive from Asheville is about the same for MSU fans from East Lansing.
Fans for teams on the other side of Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota, flying is the way to travel.
Mark Koehl, a season ticket holder for the Wisconsin Badgers, lives in Madison, Wisc. A flight out to Washington D.C. is a good excuse for him to see his sister and watch the basketball team he loves.
“I do,” Koehl said when asked if he likes the host city. “Different venue, I don’t mind coming to D.C. and I really love Indianapolis when they have it there but I think it is good to try something different.”
The tournament will move from the Verizon Center to Madison Square Garden in New York City next season.
Koehl said he wasn’t as big of a fan with New York City as he was with Washington, D.C.
“Not as big on that mainly because of fighting for the venue with the Big East,” he said. “So they will have to play the tournament a week earlier and it seems kinda odd, all the Big Ten teams will be sitting around for two weeks almost before the NCAA Tournament starts, so I am not as excited for Madison Square Garden.”
When it comes to the Big Ten Tournament, he said there is no better place than Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
He said it was built for hosting basketball tournaments because of the downtown set-up with hotel accessibility. This makes it better than the United Center in Chicago in his opinion.