Even before the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship was held here in March, the rumors were persistent that the tournament would not return to Frankfort next year.
League officials made it official recently, announcing that after a three-year run in Frankfort, the tournament will be held in Independence, Mo., in 2015 and 2016.
Independence is not far from Kansas City, Mo., where the NAIA Division I Men’s National Championship has been held for more than 75 years. It is a town of nearly 120,000 people, considerably larger than Frankfort.
Frankfort did bid again to act as host site for the event, with Billings, Mont., also known to have submitted a bid.
Details of the bids are, of course, kept confidential, but we do know the three-year deal that ended last month included a yearly $30,000 rights fee and numerous other considerations, such as travel expenses and meals for tournament officials.
Local and area businesses benefited by more than $1 million each year, and there are few events here that generate that level of spending.
Like all leagues, the NAIA officials charged with making decisions on site selections obviously have certain criteria they are looking for.
For example, the NCAA, which recently played its Final Four in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, is interested in cramming as many people as possible into a venue and has an event attractive enough to do so. That most had horrible seats is of little consequence.
A Final Four attendance record was set this year, with 158,682 attending the three games. There were 79,238 on hand to watch Connecticut beat Kentucky and 79,444 watched UConn beat Florida and Kentucky dispatch Wisconsin.
The NAIA is quite a different animal, but putting people in the seats is still important.
That was Frankfort’s downfall.
We all know how passionate Kentuckians are about basketball, but this is not UK or U of L we are talking about. With no local team competing, there simply was no enthusiasm for the event, and ticket sales were dismal.
Aside from that, there are no other negatives to having had the tournament in Frankfort for three years.
The management and staff of the Frankfort Convention Center did a fantastic job in providing an excellent site, arranging practice times and locations and assembling a dedicated group of volunteers to assist.
Each team had a local honorary coach, and those men and women went above and beyond in making the teams feel welcome in our city.
The Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist and Convention Commission spearheaded the push, both monetarily and energetically, in landing the tournament and working to ensure its smooth flow.
Though the players and coaches who competed were primarily interested in practicing and playing, there is plenty to do in and around Frankfort when time permitted.
We think every coach, player and parent who was here the past three years for the NAIA tournaments will attest to how well they were received in Frankfort.
We are sorry to see the tournament go, but we understand the reason. We hope local officials will work hard to attract other events to the Convention Center that will benefit the local community as much.