It’s a Good Old Fashioned South Dakota Grudge Match: Argus Leader v. Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce. Whose Side Are You on?
As long as there have been high school state tournaments in South Dakota there has been debate about which cities should host the annual events.
But now the discussion has taken on a new twist.
Over the weekend, Argus Leader columnist Stu Whitney penned an opinion piece calling for combining all state high school basketball tournaments in Sioux Falls.
It's hardly a new argument, but it has gained more traction now that South Dakota's largest city has opened the state's top venue, the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
One of the cities that would stand to lose if all of the tournaments came to Sioux Falls would be Aberdeen, host to the boys 'B' tournament for the past several years.
Not surprisingly, the folks in the Hub City aren't letting Sioux Falls wrestle the event away without a fight.
The article prompted Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce president Gail Ochs to send this letter to the folks in her rolodex:
On Saturday, an article written by Stu Whitney appeared on the Sioux Falls Argus Leader website which discussed combining SDHSAA tournaments, including basketball, wrestling and volleyball for all classes, at one location. The article contained a poll which gives the reader the opportunity to vote yes or no to the question "Should Sioux Falls be the host site for most state tournaments"?
In Aberdeen, we know how important it is for us to continue hosting state tournaments to showcase the businesses, facilities, services, and opportunities that exist here for our citizens and visitors. Voting in this poll is one way for your voice to be heard so high school tournaments can continue to rotate to communities around the state.
Please vote and forward the link to your contacts so that their voices can be heard too. Thanks so much for your help and your support of Aberdeen and other South Dakota communities!
The letter included a link to the Argus' unscientific poll and, at last count, Sioux Falls was going down harder than the Titanic in the North Atlantic.
Does that mean the Aberdeen Chamber was attempting to 'stuff the ballot box' in favor of their cause?
And why wouldn't they?
Remember, I said it was an 'unscientific' poll, which by its very nature leaves the door wide open for this type of thing to happen.
Well, now it was Whitney's feathers that were ruffled.
He took exception to Aberdeen's tactics Wednesday at ArgusLeader.com, where he called the Chamber's actions 'dirty pool'.
I couldn't disagree more. If Ochs DIDN'T write that letter, she should instead be crafting her resignation. After all, the president of the Chamber of Commerce SHOULD be doing everything to promote their city's best interests.
If anyone's at fault here, it's the Argus and their unwillingness to invest money in a SCIENTIFIC poll that would give their readers an accurate look at exactly where South Dakotans stand on this issue.
That being said, I have said for years that the tournaments should be combined.
That format makes for a much better experience for fans who can watch the best South Dakota has to offer at one time, in one building.
The event would also benefit from the excitement from three straight championship games on the final night of the tournament, with fans statewide glued to their TV sets.
Does that mean Sioux Falls should be the permanent host? Not necessarily. But obviously that type of event requires certain logistics (hotel rooms, restaurants) that not every South Dakota city has. If a city can accommodate the players and fans adequately, it should be considered.
Those are the only factors the South Dakota High School Activities Association should be considering when choosing tournament hosts.
Contrary to popular belief, the job of the SDHSAA is to provide what's best for the student-athletes they serve. The Activities Association should NOT be in the business of stimulating the economies of South Dakota cities.
That's why you have a Chamber of Commerce, and after seeing what Aberdeen's pulled off this week, I think the rest of the state now has a new page in their playbooks.