Last week’s announcement that the Big 12 basketball tournament will remain at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., through at least 2016 is good news for Kansas University.
It also proves that Kansas City — on both sides of the state line — is still KU territory. As KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said: “I’m claiming that Kansas City is a Big 12 city. It has been a great place for our tournament.”
The presence of the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and the Edwards Campus in Johnson County help bolster the chancellor’s claim. The University of Missouri left the Big 12 this year to join the SEC, so the state no longer is home to a Big 12 university.
The two-year extension of the Big 12’s Sprint Center contract was announced last week during the conference board of directors’ spring business meetings. The agreement also provides the Big 12 first rights to championship dates after 2016. Officials from both the Sprint Center and Kansas City Sports Commission said they were not in discussion with other conferences about hosting other league tournaments in the future. Yes, K.C. is Big 12 and KU country.
The Big 12 men’s basketball tournament has been held in Kansas City 11 times since the league began in 1996-97, which is more than any other city. The agreement means K.C. will host the Big 12 tournament for seven straight years through 2016. The last time the tourney was played outside the Sprint Center was in 2009, when it was played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger said support among ADs was unanimous to stay in Kansas City because of the support the conference has received over the years.
While there is a certain irony in Missouri reaping many of the financial rewards of the post-season tournament, keeping the event in Kansas City benefits KU in many ways because of the tournament’s proximity to Lawrence and the Jayhawks’ strong fan base in K.C.
Especially when it comes to basketball, Kansas City still is Jayhawk country.