PIAA basketball title games returning to Hershey
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CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- High school basketball fans probably will once again be throwing Hershey's Kisses onto the court during the PIAA playoffs next year. That's because the state championships are going back to Hershey.
The PIAA voted Thursday to bring the title games back to the Giant Center in Hershey, beginning in 2013. The championships had been played at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center from 2007 through this past season, but the PIAA's contract with Penn State had expired and the organization accepted a bid from the Giant Center.
From 1976 through 2006 (with the exception of '79), the PIAA title games were played in Hershey at either Hersheypark Arena or the Giant Center. But the PIAA decided to move the games in 2007.
When the finals were played in Hershey, it was a tradition for fans to throw Hershey's Kisses onto the court if their team won a PIAA semifinal game.
Money is the main reason the title games are returning to Hershey. The Giant Center and the Bryce Jordan Center were the only two venues to bid on the championships.
"Just a comparative analysis, the Jordan Center was going to charge $70,000 to start with," said Brad Cashman, executive director of the PIAA. "All told, it would be almost $100,000 at the Jordan Center. The Giant Center, the only thing they are going to charge is catering and that is estimated to be about $24,000."
At first, Cashman said, the Jordan Center put in a bid to host the wrestling and basketball championships. The Giant Center bid only on the wrestling championships. But the PIAA wanted sports-specific bids, so the organization asked for re-bids. The Giant Center then bid on basketball.
The wrestling championships also will be conducted at the Giant Center.
"From what I understand, the convention and visitors bureau near State College was underwriting a lot of the cost before, but they did not provide the same support as they did before," Cashman said.
Attendance at the basketball championships has decreased drastically in the past few years. Paid attendance for all eight games (four boys and four girls) this season was 14,421. The attendance at Penn State in 2007 was 33,008. From '04-06, attendance at the Giant Center in Hershey was between 33,000 and 34,000.
One of the main reasons for the drop in attendance has been the addition of Philadelphia Catholic League and Public League schools into the PIAA. The Public League joined in 2004 and the Catholic League in '08. Schools from those leagues don't bring many fans. A number of small charter schools from Philadelphia also are now making regular trips to the PIAA finals. Some of those schools might bring as few as 100 to 200 fans.
"I think attendance still depends on the schools involved and the communities they come from," Cashman said. "The charter schools and some others just don't have a fan base."
But in recent years, it appeared the PIAA also had lost the "casual" fans who didn't have an allegiance to any schools in the title game but came to the championships anyway, sometimes on a yearly basis.
"Our advanced sales dropped significantly at the Jordan Center after the first year," Cashman said. "Maybe this move [back to Hershey] will recapture some of those fans. State College is a great place. I liked State College. But Hershey is more of an entertainment, resort type of area. There are more things to do that attract families more."
First Published May 25, 2012 12:00 am