Feeling cast aside now that Austin has locked up the more prestigious and more profitable South by Southwest Music Festival, the UIL is thinking about moving the boy’s high school state basketball tournament to another weekend.
And if that doesn’t fix the tournament’s declining attendance, the tournament might move, possibly to Dallas.
“We have had a lot of conversations with our coaches association,” UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt said. “We’re concerned about the downward trend of our attendance and the fact that we’ve gone from an attendance of over 100,000 fans 10 years ago for the three-day event to less than 70,000.”
Breithaupt is also concerned that the festival is driving up hotel prices. Some three- and four-star hotels that are normally $75 to $125 per night were running for $250 to $450 per night last weekend.
At those prices, many basketball fans decided to stay away because the Frank Erwin Center was barely half-full for many of the championship games.
“We’re worried about it, because hotel space is at a premium,” Breithaupt said. “Our folks are not going to spend $300 to $400 a night on a hotel — if they can get them.”
While the UIL has had constant sellouts at its boys state tournament for decades, the SXSW first popped onto the Austin scene in 1987 with 700 attendees. But by last year, its attendance had increased to more than 85,000 registrants.
The economic impact on the Austin economy from SXSW, according to a report by Greyhill Advisors, was $218.2 million last year.
This year the festival is from March 7-16; the UIL boys state basketball tournament was this past weekend. If it was to change, the UIL would also have to move the girls tournament because it is scheduled one week before the boys.
As fans complained about bloated hotel prices, some teams stayed up to an hour away in Marble Falls.
“We’re having a hard time finding hotels for our teams, even those that are playing in the tournament, so it is a concern,” Breithaupt said. “We’re going to first look at moving our date.
“We don’t like to move back and shorten the season, but we may have to do that first.
“If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to take more drastic measures and look at other places.”
One of those places could be American Airlines Center in Dallas, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars.
Last year the UIL moved all of its state football games to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“We did that because we only have three dome stadiums in the state,” Breithaupt said.
“And that certainly is one of the finest in the world — the AT&T Stadium.”