On Thursday the conference announced that it has reached an agreement with the Alabama Sports Foundation and the city of Hoover that will keep the tournament locked in to Regions Park until 2016.
“We are very pleased about continuing our relationship with the Alabama Sports Foundation and the City of Hoover” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a release. “We have seen the tournament grow through the support of those two entities and our great fans. SEC baseball supporters have had a major impact on the success of this event, and we look forward to continuing to provide them with a great environment and experience.”
Last year’s tournament drew record numbers of over 126,000 fans and averaged nearly 10,000 per game.
In an effort to keep the tournament, Hoover made almost $6 million worth of stadium improvements within the last five years.
The tournament’s future has been a hot topic recently amongst Rebel fans, who typically travel well to Hoover for what has been an annual pilgrimage since the Rebels went 14-16 in the SEC in 2002, Mike Bianco’s second season at Ole Miss.
Other sites reportedly in consideration for the tournament included Memphis’ Autozone Park and Jackson’s Trustmark Park.
While many Rebel supporters had hoped the tournament would head to Memphis, Bianco said he understands and supports the conference’s decision.
“It would be easy for us to have it in Memphis, but it wouldn’t be any easier for a lot of other people. It’d be a further trip for the teams in the East,” Bianco said. “For the teams, student athletes and fans, much like you talk about getting to Omaha to play at the College World Series, people talk about getting to Hoover, the destination of the SEC Baseball Tournament. They’re synonymous. That’s probably the biggest reason it’s staying, it has had so much success and it’s hard to think you’re going to change it and have the same success some place else.”
Bianco added that the SEC’s office sought feedback from the conference’s coaches prior to making its decision.
“There really hasn’t been any complaints as far as I’m aware of or anything specific as to why you’d want to move it from the coaches’ standpoint,” Bianco said.
This year’s tournament is scheduled to begin May 25. (May 20, 2011, Page 6A)