With a bit of arm-twisting, Payson High School Athletic Director Jason Lobik convinced fellow East ADs to hold the 2010 regional boys and girls basketball tournaments in Payson.
Lobik said the knock on Payson hosting previous tournaments was that the district’s facilities were too small for the large crowds, especially the Whiteriver Alchesay contingent, which attends postseason clashes.
“So I traveled around to all (of the East region’s) schools, and I found out the only one bigger than ours (Wilson Dome) was Round Valley,” Lobik said. “I took that information (to the ADs) and they agreed to hold the tournament here.”
Hosting the tournaments is an economic boon for the town, because the prep teams that participate bring hundreds of parents, fans, coaches and players to town. Some stay the entire weekend, filling up motels and restaurants while also purchasing goods and services.
Evidence the tournaments are a godsend to the Rim Country’s struggling economy surfaced early last year when PUSD hosted two state first-round basketball games and a wrestling tournament in the course of two days.
On a Friday evening, Payson High School hosted a state first-round basketball game featuring the Lady Longhorns and Tuba City.
The following day, Wilson Dome was transformed from a basketball field house into a wrestling venue for the inaugural Arizona State Team Championship Tournament.
The tournament drew eight of the finest 3A conference wrestling teams from around the state.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Wilson was turned back into a basketball facility to host a state first-round boys basketball game between Sedona Red Rock and Payson.
Those three athletic events attracted a huge number of visitors to the Rim Country, especially the girls’ event. Tuba City, where basketball reigns supreme, had more than 1,000 fans follow the team to Payson.
The success of the wrestling tournament and playoff games prompted PHS principal Roy Sandoval to lobby for Payson as an athletic hot spot.
“Payson is a perfect location, being in the center of Arizona. Also, our dome really lends itself to these types of events,” he said.
“Economically, it’s a great boost for the town when eight teams and their fans come in for events like this.”
For the 2010 East basketball tournaments, the top two teams from the regular season will receive byes for opening round games to be played Feb. 3 at the home site of the highest seed.
Following those games, the tournament moves Feb. 5 and Feb. 6 to Wilson Dome.
Semifinal games will be played opening day, and the championship clash and battle for third or fourth will be contested the following day.
Girls’ games on opening day will be played at noon and 5 p.m. The championship game on Feb. 6 is set for 5 p.m. and the bronze medal skirmish at noon.
Boys’ games on the first day are at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On championship Saturday, the gold medal game tips off at 7:30 p.m. and the third-place game is at 2:30 p.m.
Admission is $5 and, because they are postseason games, only AIA passes are accepted.