I read with interest Tom Oates' recent column in the Wisconsin State Journal, Alvarez shoots an air ball with lame offer to WIAA.
The future of Madison hosting the WIAA High School boys and girls state tournaments is in jeopardy. The formation of the Big Ten Conference in men's hockey resulted in possible hockey tournaments at the Kohl Center which would directly conflict with the high school tournaments. These are events that bring thousands of families from throughout the state to Madison in March at a time when hotels and restaurants welcome them with open arms.
This issue is frustrating on a number of levels and as Mayor I am concerned.
My staff and I have been involved in this issue for weeks, reaching out and meeting with University officials, city business leaders and Madison civic organizations that are deeply concerned.
The city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin are in a continuing partnership. UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez needs to balance the University's interests and its need to generate revenue with the Wisconsin Idea - reaching to the boundaries of the state.
The UW serves the entire state of Wisconsin and these high school basketball players work for years to be able to earn the chance to play at the Kohl Center. State high school basketball tournaments were meant to be played on the hardwood floor of the major state university basketball team.
It is noteworthy to point out as well, that the Kohl Center will only be needed for hockey if the Badgers do well enough to host the tournament. If not, as Oates points out, the Kohl Center will sit empty for two weeks.
This is an instance where the City and the University partnership to serve the state must take precedence.
The issue is generating more interest and a number of suggestions for compromise. Andy Baggot's column in the Wisconsin State Journal proposed one solution, Shifting Big Ten hockey to neutral site would eliminate WIAA conflict. He proposes the Big Ten hockey games be played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota and suggests it's a change that would address a lot of concerns, including a big one in our backyard. Another option is to hold the hockey tournament, when necessary, at the first great home of the Wisconsin Badger hockey team, the Memorial Coliseum at the Alliant Energy Center.
I encourage the Athletic Department to consider Baggot's suggestion and others. Join in the community dialogue so we can work together on this issue.