The Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championships has a new home.
At least for the 2021 season, anyway.
Both the boys and girls events will be held at Harrison Central High School on back-to-back weekends in February.
The girls championships are scheduled for Feb. 6 and the boys are one week later on Feb. 13.
“Harrison Central offers a very unique facility that fits our needs for a successful event,” OVAC Basketball Championship Director Rick DeLuca said. “I believe that anyone who has yet to visit the new building or toured the school will be very surprised with the design and ease of access.”
The OVAC has crowned its basketball champions on the court since 2008 with every one of those being staged at the Health and Physical Education Center on the campus of Ohio University Eastern.
During the spring, OUE announced that it was doing away with intercollegiate athletics on its campus, but assured the OVAC that the building — despite many rumors that were circulating — would remain available to it for use during the basketball championships.
While hopeful that it would work out the way OUE envisioned, DeLuca and the OVAC were “skeptical.”
“We decided, at that point, to begin to make contingency plans,” DeLuca said.
However, because of issues stemming from COVID-19 and growing financial concerns throughout the Ohio University campuses, officials in Athens made the decision to keep the OUE facility closed for the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year.
“Once Ohio University decided to keep the building closed, they told us that the OVAC would need to secure a different location,” DeLuca said.
DeLuca and OVAC Treasurer Tom Rataiczak began looking at other possible host venues.
“We went through all of the options and the primary needs to hold a successful event,” DeLuca said.
The main factors taken into consideration were seating capacity, parking, locker rooms, geographic location and available accommodations for the media.
“Once we started to look over the list of facilities, it was apparent that what we were looking for and what was available made the list smaller than we imagined,” DeLuca noted.
After narrowing the list, DeLuca and Rataiczak visited a couple of venues, but eventually settled on Harrison Central, which is preparing for just its second basketball season.
“(Harrison Central) is certainly a very beautiful facility that was designed with the students and community in mind,” DeLuca said. “We are looking forward to the OVAC Basketball Championships. It will be a new experience, but I believe the transition will be very smooth.”
The Huskies gymnasium has played host to several big games already outside of Harrison Central games. It hosted several Eastern District Tournament games last March and has also replaced OUE as the new host for the Buckeye 8 Challenge, which is slated for Dec. 19.
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