WILKES-BARRE TWP. —Nearly three years after coming up with the idea, it finally became reality.
The District 2 boys and girls basketball championship games will be played at Mohegan Sun Arena starting in 2016. The three-year agreement was announced Wednesday morning at the 8,300-seat facility.
“We’ve been working on this for the last two-and-a-half years,” District 2 athletic committee chairman Frank Majikes said. “We had some roadblocks over the years. I have to give Mr. (Brian) Sipe, the general manager, and his staff credit. We met, and I used the word collaboration in my remarks, and they have been phenomenal. They worked around our schedule, they were able to reschedule some of the events here.”
The eight championship games in 2016 will be played on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26 and 27. Three games will be on Friday and five on Saturday. Majikes said it hasn’t been decided which games will be scheduled those days. Sunday, Feb. 28, will also be available if games are postponed due to inclement weather.
Third-place games to determine entrants to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournaments will be played prior to the championship games at other locations.
The PIAA will expand boys and girls basketball from four to six classifications each for the 2016-2017 school year. The District 2 championships in 2017 and 2018 will run over three days with four games each day.
“When we went to the six classes, I thought we were going to have a big, big stumbling block (in 2017),” Majikes said. “But they were able to works something out and changed a scheduled event here. I can’t thank Brian and his staff enough for what they have done.”
Sipe said the basketball games won’t interfere with the schedule of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the main occupant of the arena in the winter.
“It’s same as we do now when we have Monster Trucks or Disney On Ice,” Sipe said. “We blocked so many weekends out and fill the Penguins in as many weekends as we can.”
Majikes and Sipe declined to delvuge the fee District 2 is paying to use the arena.
“We sat down, had a meeting, figured out what their needs were and tried to work up a budget that worked for both of us,” Sipe said. “We were able to come to that number.”
Championship games last season were played at Wilkes University and Lackawanna College. Those venues lacked large parking lots and fans had to rely heavily on street parking, often several blocks away. That won’t be a problem at the arena. Nor will the usual logjam when fans from one game are departing while others are arriving to see the next game.
“We polled the schools at our annual meeting,” Majikes said. “It was the decision of the schools. We wouldn’t do this just on the behalf of the committee. We had input from the schools and they indicated to me (to) go for it.”