By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Big 12 Basketball Tournament is scheduled to begin Wednesday, but considering the economic state, the stands may not be completely filled.
Each team in the conference receives an allotment of 1,100 tickets, but a number of schools, not the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University, couldn't sell them all. The schools returned them to the Big 12, which is now offering to sell them to the public.
Big 12 officials said they understand the rough economy is going to keep people from traveling who would have traveled here two years ago.
"We don't think that we'll have as many coming in from out of town, and that creates a concern on the economic impact for the city," said Tim Allen of the Big 12 Conference. "We share the concern."
In 2007, the first time the tournament was held in the metro, Oklahoma City set new attendance records for both the men and the women, and the tournament had an estimated impact on the local economy of $40 million.
"That's just a massive capital injection into your city over a seven day period," said Tim Brassfield of OKC All Sports Association.
Officials with the Oklahoma City All Sports Association said they would love to see that injection every year, or even every other year, with Oklahoma City being made a permanent host, but aren't getting their hopes up.
"My thoughts are, I don't see that happening in a permanent way, but then again, that decision is not in our hands," Brassfield said.
Big 12 officials said they're going to try to answer the question of a permanent home for the conference basketball tournament as well as the football championship game.
"We're still probably 12 to 18 months away from making those final decisions about what we do, but I know this, Oklahoma City's support of college athletics is always going to be a home of some sort for Big 12 championships," Allen said.
Ultimately, the question of permanency will be answered by the Big 12 Athletic Directors, and it could get political.
Mayor Mick Cornett said if Oklahoma City wants the tournament to return, residents need people to fill the Ford Center and Cox Convention Center.
"I really encourage fans if they have tickets," Mayor Cornett said. "Be sure to use them or get them into the hands of someone who will. We don't only need to sell the tickets, we need to get people in the seats so we can show our level of support."
The Mayor said this is really a rare chance for Oklahomans to attend games they may not have seen otherwise.
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