Hulne: Pros and cons of the big stage

Published 9:55 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

When it comes to high school sports in Minnesota, the bigger the game, the more fantastic the venue becomes.

In this past season, area teams made big postseason runs and were able to play in the best arenas in the state. LeRoy-Ostrander’s football team won its state tite in USBank Stadium, the Austin Packer dance team and Hayfield boys basketball team won state titles in Target Center and the Hayfield bsaeball team finished second in state after it played in Target Field recently.

Minnesota prep athletes have a unique opportunity to play in professional and college venues as that isn’t the case in every state. The reward in playing in massive arenas is a reward for all of the athletes who get the chance and there are some positive and negative effects of playing in those big venues.

A different perspective

When it comes to basketball, the playing floor is larger in the state tournament than it is in the regular season, which gives an advantage to teams with speed and takes away the advantage of pressure defense. The wider the court, the more difficult it is to force traps or cause turnovers.

Thre is also the different view of shooting towards a seating section instead of shooting towards a brick wall like most high school courts have. I’ve seen some of the best high school shooters struggle to find their shot in places like Mayo Civc Center and Williams Arena because of the different backdrop.

In football, the change of atmosphere is a good one. I’d much rather have the state championship decided indoors, where the cold Minnesota winter cannot alter the outcome. Since all section title games and state games are now played on turf, it isn’t a big adustment for players to give up playing on grass late in the year.

Metro centric

A lot of the state tournaments are played in Minneapolis, which means that some fans from rural areas may be taking a rare trip to the metro area. This can be good as it gives people a chance to see the big city lights and find out what the metro is all about.

It can also be bad, because some schools have to travel up to five hours to get to the metro, and some drivers may struggle with the hustled pace of city traffic.

The price of competition

I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m sure the Minnesota State High School League, which was recently facing deficit issues after COVID-19, spends a good ammount of money to book these big venues. Some cheaper options could be the Taylor Center in Mankato, which is a fabulous basketball arena, or any of the high schools in the cities, which have good facilities.

The MSHSL could also consider taking advice from Wisconsin, where only the final four teams, not eight, play in the final venue.

A once in a lifetime experience

There is something to be said about the wide eyed looks of the athletes, coaches and fans who experience places like Williams Arena or USBank Stadium for the first time. The energy level is ramped up and the game seems to have more meaning in these places.

The only drawback can be that the crowds are quieter when you have a few hundred fans filing into a stadium that is meant to hold thousands of fans.