Women’s NJCAA Tournament possibly leaving Salina

SALINA, Kansas — Two national tournaments are already underway right here in Kansas and they add up to some major money for the state.

The National Junior College men’s tournament is in Hutchinson. It brings in about 1.4 million dollars to the town.

The women’s tournament is in Salina and it’s value is put around $600,000 but the NJCAA wants some costly changes in order to keep coming back to Kansas.

The NJCAA women’s basketball tournament has been a staple in Salina for 17 years and one that pays off for the town of 48,000 people.

“We can estimate that visitor spending is about $600,000,” said Tiffany Benien with Visit Salina.

Some of that comes from a 6% transient tax the city has in place. However, it’s the same percentage as their main competition in hosting the event, Lubbock, Texas, also has. But Lubbock does have a population of almost 300,000 people and double the number of hotels available for tourists, meaning a potential to churn in more revenue.

“They are going to a draw a little bit more. Texas Tech is there and their women’s program has had some success in the past and it is a women’s basketball kind of area,” said Mary Ellen Leicht, the executive director of the NJCAA.

Leicht says the NJCAA is listening to bid offers from both Lubbock and Salina in deciding where to hold the tournament beginning in 2016.

The tournament has had a 6-day average of about 9,000 people in Salina but that support has stayed stagnant in recent years.

“We just haven’t seen a lot of that kind of grass-root support,” said Leicht.

Leicht says Lubbock is pushing to hold the event at Lubbock Christian University which has a 2,500 seat facility which is 5,000 seats smaller than the Bi-Centennial Center in Salina.

Leicht says the appeal of a smaller venue is it being tailored more towards basketball than the multi-purpose Bi-Centennial Center.

Ease of transportation is also a key player in the decision making process. Lubbock has an international airport that has flights coming in from as far west as Phoenix and as far east as Atlanta. That is something that would cater more to the teams that generally play in the tourney.

“We have a number of teams in the Texas area, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, some of the southern tier, it might be closer for them to travel to,” said Leicht.

The tournament is still scheduled to return to the Bi-Centennial Center in Salina for at least one more year though before a change would occur.

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