Believe it or not, some young people in Austin during the second week of South by Southwest aren’t necessarily in town for free beer, live music and free (and occasionally questionable) promotional materials. Some brave the traffic and throngs of people in the hopes of winning a championship.
The University Interscholastic League – the state’s host and organizer of high school academic and athletic competitions – has held its UIL Basketball State Tournaments in Austin for more than 90 years. But, because of waning attendance and the high cost of Austin hotels during South by, UIL has decided to move the championship from the Frank Erwin Center down I-35 to San Antonio’s Alamodome starting next year.
UIL spokesperson Kate Hector says the tournament's proximity to the festival dramatically impacts hotel room availability and affordability.
"This past year we had difficulty even finding hotels for the teams," Hector says. "We had teams staying far away out of town that had to drive in for their games, which is obviously not ideal."
Austin's hosted the tournaments since 1921, when they humbly began in UT's Gregory Gym. The festival's recent explosion in attendance has priced out hotel rooms for many fans, and it's also deterred many from even showing up. The boys' and girls' championships once drew crowds of around 14 to 15,000, but attendance has dropped severely the past few years, Hector says.
Casandra Matej of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau says the city's recent championship makes it the perfect locale for the move.
"From NCAA Final Fours to the Spurs’ march to a fifth NBA crown last month, San Antonio has proven to be a championship city when it comes to basketball," Matej said in the UIL's announcement. "We look forward to providing another unforgettable experience for players, fans and officials at the 2015 UIL State Basketball Tournaments.”
While San Antonio's basketball credentials may draw more attendees – pricey hotel rooms aside – Hector says it'll be hard for the tournament to leave Austin.
"It's a little bittersweet because the tournament's had a great history and tradition in Austin," Hector says. "But, we'll make new traditions in San Antonio."