The Big Ten is looking for a permanent home for the conference’s men’s basketball tournament after having alternated between Chicago and Indianapolis since 2001. From my biased perspective, I’d like to see the United Center in Chicago become the home of the Big Ten Tournament since: (1) I’m a Chicagoan and (2) the Illini are the beneficiaries of a huge home court advantage here.
John Brumbaugh of of Illini Board wrote a more balanced point-by-point comparison of Chicago versus Indianapolis being the permanent home of the tournament a few months ago. In the end, he believes Chicago will be chosen because of its financial advantages (United Center has over 3,000 more seats than Conseco Fieldhouse and the Windy City has access to substantially more corporate sponsorships) and logistics (while most people I spoken with that have gone to the tourney in both cities believe Indy is more convenient as a fan once you get there since the venue, hotels, and bars are all in a centralized location, Chicago is still the transportation capital of the nation and has more than enough hotel space).
An interesting and, I believe, extremely important point that Brumbaugh notes is that the Big Ten could be looking at securing Chicago as “their city.” Particularly with both DePaul and Notre Dame in the Big East at this time, the Big Ten wants to make sure that it stays as the predominant conference in the nation’s third largest media market.
The Big East is firmly associated with Madison Square Garden in New York while the Pac-10 has made the Staples Center in Los Angeles its home. Chicago is certainly a better college sports town than New York (St. John’s? Rugters???) and arguably better than L.A. (even with the presence of USC and UCLA, people on the West Coast just don’t have the same passion about sports as those in other parts of the country). There’s a lot more value in terms of national perception if the Big Ten is automatically associated with the major market of Chicago as opposed to being the sterotyped product of small Midwestern towns. The Big Ten can either continue to complain about being the victim of major media market bias or it can become the beneficiary of major media market bias. I’d rather have the latter, which means choosing Chicago as the permanent home for the Big Ten Tournament is a good place to start.