City leaders plan to keep IHSA boy’s basketball tournament in Peoria; looking into girl’s tournament

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PEORIA, Ill.–The IHSA is making some major changes to its boy’s and girl’s basketball state championships.

For 24 years Peoria has hosted the boy’s high school tournament, but on Monday, the IHSA made announcements that are worrying local businesses, after the tournament has been extremely beneficial for the city of Peoria for many years.

“The economic impact of hosting the state boy’s basketball tournament is huge. Our hotel rooms are filled for areas around, the restaurants are constantly busy with lunch, dinner, and breakfast, the gas stations from people traveling in from all over the state,” said Jess McMullin, Director of Sales and Marketing with the Peoria Civic Center.

And although in the boy’s tournament will only be one weekend now, McMullin says the Peoria Civic Center has already started planning accordingly.

“It’ll change up our booking calendar for sure.  We made some tweaks right away this morning, we can start accepting bids on different events for that second weekend that would typically be basketball weekend,” said McMullin.

The condensing of weekends will change the amount of tournament days from four days to three, but each day will now be held with more games.

“More games in a day for three solid days.  We have a really great event and operational staff here so they’ll work with IHSA.  Can we do more games in a day?  Absolutely,” McMullin said.

But now the boy’s tournament is being condensed from two weekends to one starting in 2021, and this worries some downtown Peoria businesses.

“We rely on both weekends for all of the groups to come in. We are full-house both weekends.  We have a lot of guests that year after year come, and both weekends as well, so now we’re gonna try to cram two weekends into one, we can’t accommodate them all,” said the Mark Twain Hotel General Manager Lisa Davis.

“We could possibly go down without a lot of rooms and not be able to recover.  Because we’re an independent hotel and not a chain hotel, it’s harder for us to recover those kind of funds,” Davis said.

“We look for the things that happen downtown to be able to stay in business.  We predominately base our business on the events that are coming and different things like that,” said Rumberger’s Wings and More General Manager Keke Odom.

The bar and grill is located right across the street from the Pere Marquette hotel downtown Peoria, and Odom says when families come into town for the tournament, that they are ready to eat.

“People are hungry, and they want food and want it fast.  Everyone is here and they enjoy the music, the atmosphere, the look.  We are kid-friendly so that helps,” Odom said.

The Mark Twain Hotel has 111 rooms, and the building which has been operated under several names, was built in 1967.  Davis says when the tournament comes into town, the locally-owned hotel welcomes many loyal customers.

“We have people who have been here for many many years and unfortunately, who do we choose to come in?” Davis said.

Even with the change, Peoria city leaders are working hard to keep the boy’s tournament in Peoria, and may even look into bringing the girl’s tournament to the River City as well.

“Now we all go to work. What’s gonna be the best bid proposal to bring the state tournament back? Whether it be boys and girls, boys, or just girls,” said McMullin.

Peoria does have to bid again in 2020 to renew its contract with the IHSA to keep the tournament here another five years.

The IHSA says its partnership with the city has been a successful one, and city leaders have told WMBD that keeping the tournament here is a priority for them.

This story will be updated as we receive more information.

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