Girls' Sweet Sixteen is moving

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Monica Spees Bowling Green Daily News, Kentucky Press News Service

The tourism community remains optimistic despite news that the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament won’t be coming to Bowling Green in 2016-17.

Vicki Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there will be other opportunities for Bowling Green to bring in large crowds.

“Of course we’re disappointed ... but we have other KHSAA events we’re securing,” Fitch said.

Though Fitch couldn’t say what events might come to Bowling Green in the girls’ tournament’s absence, she said Bowling Green has been considered for other high school events that did not come to fruition because of scheduling conflicts.

As soon as the CVB found out the KHSAA board voted Tuesday to hold the Girls’ Sweet Sixteen at Northern Kentucky University’s The Bank of Kentucky Center, the CVB’s three sales people started making calls, Fitch said.

“That gives us the ability, when we have an open date, to quickly pursue events and fill it,” Fitch said.

Amy Cardwell, CVB sports sales director, told the Daily News before the tournament in March that the event would likely bring in 30,000 visitors. Neil Paragh, manager at Comfort Inn and a CVB board member, said the tournament benefits more than just hotels.

“Anytime an event like the Sweet Sixteen comes, it helps the whole area. ... It’s hard to lose them, but, hopefully, we can fill that spot with another event to show off our great city,” Paragh said.

Paragh said the girls’ state tournament has helped Western Kentucky University because it gives high school students from across the state the chance to see E.A. Diddle Arena and the rest of campus, which is a recruiting tool for prospective students.

Compared to other Bowling Green events, the Girls’ Sweet Sixteen brings in a lot of families, and that opens up a range of ways they spend money here, Paragh said.

Paragh also remains confident in the city’s ability to host a replacement event.

“We can overcome it,” Paragh said.

Houchens Industries has sponsored the tournament. Alan Larson of Houchens Industries could not be reached for comment.

The tournament had been in Bowling Green since 2001.