Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

The eephus pitch

March 20, 2008

Not only was it a packed house at the Sprint Center on Friday for the second round of the Big 12 tournament, it was a packed backyard.

Fans from all Big 12 schools were visibly enjoying the venue, but I witnessed some disgruntled fans that were mostly unhappy about an inability to accommodate such a large crowd.

The arena holds around 18,500 people, not bad for a downtown basketball tournament.

But what I saw Friday afternoon as I stood inside and looked out of the window at a ticket gate before the KU game were throngs of people trying to get in and not enough entryways and ticket-takers to allow people to reach their seats in time for the start of the game. The arena looked about three-quarters full when the game started, and I don't think it got full until about five minutes into the game.

Those tickets were way too expensive for people to be held out of their seats at the last minute, especially with people waiting in lines with youngsters wanting to go in and see their heroes. That's brutal on a child and a parent.

Concession stand lines and bathroom lines also contained visibly frustrated people.

I'm not saying the tournament shouldn't be in the Sprint Center in years to come. On the contrary, it should be there every year given the central location within the Big 12.

The open-air courtyard area with restaurants and bars surrounding it was incredible. It actually was kind of cool to hang out with K-State and Missouri fans and talk football. That's the first time that's ever been the case in all my 24 years.

There were quality places to eat, tons of great places to stand or sit and watch big screens, lots of happy enthusiastic people all around and plenty of things to see to be entertained, including some of the best college basketball in America.

It had it all as far as what you want in a college basketball conference tournament atmosphere.

But at the same time, the higher-ups who run the facility need to take a serious look at what you have and what you need when it comes to the inside.

When I got down to the Power and Light District, I was about 30 minutes early for the start of the first game, Texas and Oklahoma State. That was the game of the morning session in my mind, since Colorado beat Baylor and ruined an OU-BU matchup.

I was with a group of guys and we thought we'd have no problem, this was downtown KC, and we'd bought a parking pass right by the arena.

What we found when we got there though, was road construction all around the building, making it nearly impossible to navigate the area and find our lot.

Then we get up to the building right as the game is scheduled to start and there's about a 30-minute wait to get into the game.

I realize people were all rushing the gates at about the same time, but there needs to be some way to move people through to park and enter the building faster.

It wasn't all bad though, we made the most of it and checked out the surroundings and waited for the line to die down. I was fine with that because the outside atmosphere was that good.

That's probably what was going through a lot of fans' minds and one reason reviews of the site were so good.

Asked about the overall response and likelihood of a return, Big 12 senior associate commissioner Tim Allen said, "They've given us every reason to want to return, and that's probably the ultimate compliment you can pay to a facility."

So it's no joke, the Sprint Center has a chance to become the site of the Big 12 tournament for years to come, which would be great for people in this area.

But before that can come to pass, there needs to be some work done inside the Center and on the surrounding streets.

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