The location of the Pac-10 Tournament, played at Staples Center in Los Angeles, has been the target of many fans' ire since the shine wore off and attendance began dropping. Each year, the broadcasts show an arena nowhere near capacity, with empty seats prevalent throughout the tournament. Unless the UCLA Bruins or, to a lesser extent, the USC Trojans are involved, fans just don't come out in droves at all.
On Wednesday night, as the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament kicked off, the attendance problem was on display for the world as the opening round games were played in front of crowds more fit for small high school games.
Notice a game was, in fact, being played when this picture was taken. After the jump, another look at the attendance and a few of the solutions that have been floated.
Here's another view, this time from the seats, taken by WSU equipment manager Neil Stover.
While this picture looks better, the attendance is sparse, at best.
The Pac-10 Tournament at Staples Center has run its course and it's time for a change. The Pac-10 Tournament is stuck at Staples Center through 2012, meaning commissioner Larry Scott can't explore other options for at least another year. But when he does, Addicted To Quack's Matt Daddy has a few ideas for revamping the tournament when the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12.
There are now 6 other locations that can house a tournament that have greater than 17,000 seat capacity. US Airways Arena, Arizona (18,422), EnergySolutions Arena, Utah (19,911), Rose Garden, Oregon (20,630), Key Arena, Washington (17,072), Pepsi Center, Colorado (19,155), HP Pavillion, No Cal (19,190). Another thing I would do is let a "local" school be the host of the tournament each year and let them negotiate a deal with the arena for sponsorship rights and extra revenue sales (i.e. concessions, etc).
Rotating the tournament has been floated before and has continued to gain momentum. Taking the tournament out of Los Angeles, where its grown stale, has the potential to create a better environment while boosting revenue at the same time. Instead of playing in front of a dull, half-full arena, rotating the tournament keeps it fresh, while opening it up to new audiences.
Whatever Scott does, it's clear something needs to be done with the event. When it's quiet enough to hear sneakers squeaking and players communicating on the floor, it's just not fun for the fans at home or athletes on the floor.
For more on the tournament, including results and the bracket, check out our 2011 Pac-10 Tournament StoryStream.