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Champaign Beats Peoria In Bid To Host IHSA Basketball Tournament

An elevator at the Peoria Civic Center decorated for the 2020 IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament later canceled by COVID-19 concerns.
Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
An elevator at the Peoria Civic Center decorated for the 2020 IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament later canceled by COVID-19 concerns.

UPDATED 5:55 P.M. | After 25 years in Peoria, the Illinois High School Association boys basketball tournament will once again call Champaign home.

The IHSA's board of directors voted Monday to move the tournament from the Peoria Civic Center to Champaign's State Farm Center starting next year. The tournament was hosted in Champaign for 77 years before Peoria took over after 1995.

“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a statement. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion for high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts. The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021.”

The IHSA girls basketball tournament will remain at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena in Normal for the next three years. Anderson said Redbird Arena remains the right fit for the girls finals. ISU has hosted them since 1992.

“The fact that our girls tournament has found continued success,” Anderson said. “The venue is rich in history for our girls and they found their own niche being at Redbird Arena.”

ISU Athletics Director Larry Lyons said condensing the finals from two weekends into one starting next year will allow for more flexible scheduling for the university.

“It does open up the calendar for us, for both our men’s and women’s basketball teams to conclude seasons in Redbird Arena,” Lyons said. “We’ll definitely take advantage of that.”

Peoria made a bid to host both tournaments for the next three years, as well as a separate bid to just retain the boys tournament.

The IHSA finals at the Civic Center were canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament had an annual economic impact of more than $4 million a year in Peoria.

“While we are ultimately disappointed that the IHSA Board has chosen to move the boys from Peoria, we ultimately thank them for the opportunity to have hosted 25 storied years in Peoria and to write incredible chapters in the IHSA history books,” said J.D. Dalfonso, President/CEO of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau in a statement. “The tournament experience that we have been able to provide in Peoria for more than two decades comes from this community’s incredible pride and passion to build and execute a nationally acclaimed state basketball tournament.”

The state Scholastic Bowl tournament also will move to Normal. Starting next year, the tournament will be hosted at Heartland Community College. Peoria has hosted the tournament since 1997. Peoria will continue hosting the IHSA chess tournament at the Civic Center.

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Tim Shelley is the Assignment Editor and Digital Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.