After a four-year hiatus, the MAAC basketball tourney is back in Albany (or at least on its way). That’s good for the league and this area’s many college hoops fans, as well as the local economy. In fact it should never have left, as the conference’s Council of Presidents seemed to recognize with its unanimous vote to return the men’s and women’s college championships to the Times Union Center in 2014.
When the MAAC decided to take the tournament away from Albany, where it had been held 15 times in the last 24 years, two reasons were given. One was that it would build interest, excitement and revenue for the league if different sites were used. The other was the perceived advantage of playing in your home city and on your home court, which was seemingly confirmed by Siena College often doing well in the tournament, and winning it four times when hosting it.
But the revolving neutral sites turned out to be a bust, with attendance in Bridgeport, Conn., and Springfield, Mass., where the tournament has been held the last few years, a fraction of what it used to be in Albany. The last time Albany was host, in 2010, it set an attendance record for four games, as well as the final. Siena was in the final, and won it that year — but attendance was always good, whether Siena played or not, a tribute to Capital Region fans and the fan-friendly activities planned by the arena’s management and city.
Siena’s men’s team has since fallen on hard times, compiling a lousy record the last few years. That’s expected to change with a highly regarded new coach. But it shouldn’t change the logic of having the tournament in a conference city with a first-class arena — a city that has shown it wants it, where it’s appreciated and well attended. The MAAC made the right choice.