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Complaining That the Big Ten Tournament is in D.C.? Stop.

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There’s no reason this event shouldn’t be shared throughout the conference footprint.

Penn State Nittnay Lions v Ohio State Buckeyes Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Yes, I know Purdue is in Indiana. Yes, I know a large percentage of the fan base of Purdue is located in Indiana. Yes, I know having everything within walking distance of the venue is a great thing. Please stop with these arguments.

Change is hard for everyone but that’s no reason not to try something new. I applaud the B1G for making the move to a different site this year. It’s not as if the B1G Tournament is a great stalwart of the conference. This is only the 20th time it’s ever been played. There’s no grand tradition to mess with, no unwritten rule that Delany and company are breaking. They are just trying something different and to me that’s fine.

Now, I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Didn’t this guy just write an article saying he lived in MD, thought NYC was a weird choice, and was glad it was in D.C. because it’s closer to where he lives?”. Yes, yes I did. Hear me out though.

Already all over twitter you see people from yesterday during the first games and today at tipoff taking pictures of the half full (or less) arena.

I get that this looks bad, embarrassing even, especially when the Washington Post writes an article laughing at you. The fact is though that these early games on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon are never well attended. It’s only people who have the luxury of taking the day off, or students who have made the trip, that generally go to all the games. That’s just how these tournaments are. Don’t take my word for it though, let’s take a look at some raw numbers. I’ve got two different sources here so bear with me.

According to a different Washington Post article, in which Jim Delany was interviewed, the previous 19 conference tournaments have hosted a total of 1.85 million fans. Some quick math (1,850,000/19) yields you an average attendance per tournament of 97,368.4211. Since .4211 people don’t exist we will go ahead and round that up (for generosity sake) to 97,369. Keep that number in mind.

My second source is Wikipedia (I know, I know) in which I was able to find attendance figures for 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Somehow the numbers from 2013 elude me. I wanted to get a more recent idea of how well these tournaments have been selling. The totals and math are below.

  • 2012-107,737 (Banker’s Life)
  • 2014- 111,592 (Banker’s Life)
  • 2015- 118,496 (United Center)
  • 2016- 117,051 (Banker’s Life) (Purdue in final game)
  • 4 year total- 454,876
  • 4 year average- 113,719

These numbers seem to indicate that attendance has increased above the average we get based on Delany’s conversation from the Washington Post. That makes sense as the conference expands and thus more games are needed. Now, more quick math for you, but first some background. Don’t forget the tournament has expanded twice since it’s inception with there being 10 games for the first 14 years then expanding to 11 games (Nebraska addition) for the next three (2012-2014), then expanding again to 13 games (Maryland and Rutgers expansion) for the next two (2015-Current). That colors our math since it impacts total capacity.

  • United Center hosted 9 times (94 games)- 20,917 capacity for basketball (ignoring standing room only). This means total possible capacity has been 1,966,198 total fans for Chicago.
  • Conseco/Banker’s Life hosted 10 times (106 games)- 17,923 capacity for basketball. This means total possible capacity has been 1,899,838 total fans in Indy.
  • Combine those and you get a total possible of 3,866,036 total fans possible for these 19 tournaments.
  • Do the division and that means the average possible attendance has been 203,476 (rounded up).
  • More math tells me that based on either figure that’s not a great percentage.
  • Delany 1.85 million total= 47.85% full on average.
  • Wikipedia of last 4 years (454,876) vs. 899,226 possible at those four years= 50.58% full.

So, now we’ve got the data. What does it say? It says generally, this thing only sells around 50% of available tickets. That’s not great. Plus, due to the larger size of the United Center, and Chicago, more tickets are usually sold there. The Verizon Center currently seats 18,506 for basketball which is in between Indy and Chicago. That means over 13 games there is the possibility for 240,578 paid attendees. In order to keep up with historical trends and averages the conference needs to sell roughly 121,000 tickets. I think they will do that. Especially if Maryland advances. Even if not though there are large contingents of most of the Big Ten schools out in D.C. As the Washington Post, and nearly everyone you talk to out here says, the majority of people in D.C. are from somewhere else. With the footprint of the conference expanding it only seems right that the footprint of the tournament expands as well.

D.C. may be pricier than Indy but it has all the amenities you could want close to the arena. There are plenty of bars, restaurants of all types, and hotels within walking distance. Plus, if you aren’t staying within walking distance the D.C. Metro will take you nearly anywhere you want to go. And, who wouldn’t like a mini-vacation to our nation’s capital?

All I’m trying to say is give D.C. a chance. I loved going to the tournament when it was in Indy as well, but it isn’t required to be there. I think it’s good for the players, and good for the fans who may have the original conference footprint to be able to see their team in action. This also gives the B1G exposure in markets that they don’t normally get as much press in. I’ll be at the tournament starting tomorrow and I expect it to be a success by Sunday evening. Now, get back to me next year when the tournament is a week early and in NYC.