To your immediate left is a map of the Southeastern Conference region. That red dot at the extreme Northwest of the map? That’s Kansas City, Missouri. (You can click the headline above for a bigger look at the image.)
Kansas City wants to continue to make money off of Missouri athletics after the Tigers move to the SEC. Missouri wants to maintain a presence in the city for its KC fanbase (though the area is a lot closer to the University of Kansas than the University of Missouri).
With the Jayhawks balking at the idea of continuing their football series with the Tigers in Kansas City, the city is looking for new ways to stay connected with MU. City leaders met with Mizzou officials and state lawmakers yesterday to see if the Tigers were serious about playing games there in the future.
“It was real clear to me that Missouri was absolutely sincere in wanting to keep a major presence here in Kansas City,” said Jim Heeter, the head of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. And that was enough to lead Heeter to say this:
“I suggest it’s a great opportunity for Kansas City. We keep our Big 12 base and then expand our base to the SEC. We can make what’s already one of the great sports towns in America an even greater sports town.”
Sounds good. But the idea of the Kansas City community embracing the SEC is a bit of a longshot. Columbia definitely will. St. Louis — which is on the other side of the state from Kansas City — probably will as well, eventually. But KC? Take another look at that map above.
That said, there are a couple of options Kansas City and Missouri are already discussing:
1. Have the Tigers play an annual football game in KC… even if it’s not against Kansas.
2. Let the Tigers host a holiday basketball tournament in Kansas City.
3. Bring the SEC basketball tournament to Kansas City.
Mizzou AD Mike Alden says he’s in favor of bringing the tourney to KC by as early as 2017-18. “(The SEC is) gonna take a look at bids throughout their entire footprint, which includes KC. I know they’re hoping they would receive a bid and proposal from Kansas City to be able to host their tournament here.”
Are 20,000 or so of you interested in heading to Kansas City in March to watch the SEC Tournament? Didn’t think so. Heck, even Kentucky fans might view that as being a bit of a haul.
It’s good business for the Southeastern Conference to award its tourney to the highest bidder. The league should just know that the attendance will likely be rather low for such an event held in a place far from the South. Like it or not, Kansas City is still Big 12 territory. There won’t be much walk-up traffic from folks wanting to buy a seat to an afternoon session between South Carolina and Auburn.
For that matter, very few SEC fans chose to travel to St. Petersburg for the 2009 tourney and St. Pete’s in long-time league territory.
Since being revived in 1979, here’s a breakdown of the cities that have hosted (and are scheduled to host) the league’s annual basketball championship:
||Hosted or Will Host
||79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 92
||82, 86, 93
||84, 91, 01, 06, 10, 13
||87, 95, 98, 99, 00, 02, 04, 05, 07, 08, 11, 14
|Baton Rouge, LA
|New Orleans, LA
||96, 03, 12
Obviously, the SEC has outgrown the days of playing the tourney at on-campus sites. Good. It shouldn’t go back to that. Ever.
The SEC wants prime bids and it wants great exposure and it wants to expand into new territories and convert new fans. Fine, fine, fine and fine. But there’s a price for going too far outside its region. Namely: Perception.
If the SEC hosts its tourney in Kansas City, Mike Slive had better be prepared for a national TV audience to see scores of empty seats surrounding his teams. If that issue and overall gate revenue are not concerns, then to KC the tourney should go.
But if we at MrSEC.com were handling things — and obviously we’re not — the league would create a regular rotation of host cities based upon top-notch facilities, good infrastructure, tourist opportunities, and a location close to multiple schools in the SEC.
Here are the cities that would fit the bill:
* Atlanta, obviously.
* Nashville is another fine tourist destination with good facilities and a great downtown.
* New Orleans is a vacation destination and it should be in the mix regularly. Though we’d keep an eye on this year’s tourney to make sure.
* With Beale Street and barbecue, Memphis would make sense as well — especially with the addition of two Central Time Zone schools to the league — but we notice that the league hasn’t been there in a while. So Memphis would be a big maybe.
That’s it. That’s three cities (and possibly a fourth) in the rotation. If the SEC wants to reward Missouri and Texas A&M with tourneys in their backyards, then the league should focus on St. Louis and Houston which are closer to the SEC’s natural footprint than Kansas City, Dallas or San Antonio.
And St. Louis and Houston would still take the league into new, unconquered territories.
Kansas City? That seems a bit too far way for the average SEC fan.