Sun Belt tournament headed to the Big Easy
For the past four years Summit Arena has played host to the men’s and women’s Sun Belt Conference basketball tournament, but starting next season, the conference will play its annual post-season tournament in New Orleans at Lakefront Arena. The deal was announced, despite there being one year remaining on the six-year deal that gave Hot Springs the rights to host the SBC tournament. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the conference completed a buy-out of the final year of the contract in order to move the tournament to New Orleans next season. New Orleans is scheduled to host the annual post-season tournament through 2016.
In a news release, Hot Spring Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Steve Arrison said, “We originally had only a three year deal with the Sun Belt and are fortunate that next month we will have had five outstanding Sun Belt tournaments here in Hot Springs.”
Karl Benson, commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, praised Hot Springs and Arrison for playing host to the tournament since 2009, according to a press release.
“The city of Hot Springs and the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau have been terrific for the Sun Belt Conference,” Benson said. “When Hot Springs began hosting the tournament in 2009 it was the first neutral site that the Sun Belt had used in over twenty years. The leadership of Steve Arrison and his staff made the existence of a neutral site basketball tournament for the Sun Belt possible.”
Chris Peterson, the director of athletics at UALR, is focused on creating a smooth transition to The Big Easy.
“Obviously, we’re sad to see the Sun Belt Tournament leave Hot Springs,” Peterson said. “It’s been especially good to UALR and our fans, but now we need to make sure New Orleans will be a great location as well.”
SBC players will be playing in the recently-renovated Lakefront Arena next season. The arena has undergone more than $8 million in renovations including a new exterior metal facade, improvements to the roof, new seating, new flooring, a new sound system and the construction of two lounges. Lakefront Arena can hold as many as 10,000 people, where as Summit Arena can hold little more than 6,000.
“New Orleans is a great destination for our basketball championships and the recent renovations to Lakefront Arena make it an excellent venue to showcase our league,” Benson said. “The city’s great restaurants, shopping, entertainment and accommodations, provide Sun Belt fans numerous things to do when away from the arena.”