SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — March Madness for this year’s Summit League basketball championship will include a new court surrounded by empty seats. The league announced Thursday that the men’s and women’s tournaments are moving from the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center to the Sanford Pentagon and that no fans will be allowed to attend any of the games.
The change of venue for the Summit League tournament to an empty Sanford Pentagon was, according to the commission, the toughest decision the league has ever made.
“I’ve spent the last 12 years building up the tournament and encouraging attendance and trying to promote a great atmosphere for our student-athletes and our fans, we’re disappointed,” Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said.
But with the disappointment comes the hope that the changes will protect teams from the coronavirus. Even though the tournament is still weeks away, Douple says they needed to decide now whether or not to allow fans.
“For the fans that want to make travel arrangements and hotel and flights, we felt it was important to get that out and it’s also important for us logistically to be able to get with the Pentagon and host that tournament,” Douple said.
The Pentagon has already hosted several college games going back to the fall. And Douple says the facility has a good track record as far as keeping student-athletes safe.
“We felt that moving to a smaller venue with the experience and being able to help provide a safe environment with practice facilities, it just made sense,” Douple said.
Many Summit League teams have already been playing before mostly-empty stands this season. And Douple says the precautions going into place this March, will ensure a safe venue with the same fierce competition as past tournaments.
Douple says the 16 men’s and women’s teams will be tested 24-hours before they leave for Sioux Falls and will be tested regularly during the tournament, as well.