Consol interested in hosting NCAA wrestling tournament
Consol Energy Center could be a future home of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, and it has the support that would be needed to bring one of the NCAA's marquee events to Pittsburgh.
“Clearly we've got a desire to bring in events, amateur and collegiate, to Consol Energy Center,” said Penguins chief operating officer Travis Williams. “In large part it was delivering on our promise that if we had a new arena, we'd be able to attract events like that.”
Consol hosted the Frozen Four last month, and the NCAA men's basketball tournament returns in 2015 after second- and third-round games were played there in 2012.
The NCAA will release bid specifications for 2015 events, including wrestling, in June. Consol would need to partner with a school if it pursued wrestling or any other sport. It wouldn't try to bring the national wrestling tournament to the area until 2016 at the earliest because of its commitment to the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson and Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner each said through a school spokesman that he would support an effort to bring the wrestling tournament to Pittsburgh.
West Virginia deputy athletic director Mike Parsons said he had preliminary talks last summer with Consol on a potential partnership for the wrestling championships. Parsons said West Virginia remains interested in working with Consol on the endeavor.
Western Pennsylvania would be a natural staging ground for a major wrestling tournament given how popular the sport is here. Consol's history of hosting major events also would help a bid, especially since it meets NCAA criteria such as proximity to an airport and hotels and restaurants.
Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, hosted the wrestling tournament last month, and it holds a little under 17,000 people. Consol's capacity exceeds 18,000, and it sold the maximum number of tickets allotted (18,400) for both days of the Frozen Four.
“It is state of the art in terms of how they can deliver and present whatever sports are showcased in the venue,” Jim Scherr, the commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, said after spending extensive time at Consol during the Frozen Four.
Scherr, the former head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is heavily involved in wrestling and at the forefront to save wrestling as an Olympic sport. He said Consol would be ideal for the NCAA wrestling event.
“Great sight lines in the entire venue,” Scherr said. “The amenities that the arena has are probably the best of any arena in the country. And the area in which it is situated as far as where the fans would stay and socialize during the championship is exceptionally strong.”
Wells Fargo Arena drew more than 97,000 fans for the three-day tournament. The tournament had an economic impact of about $15 million, according to the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mark Malick, a Pittsburgh-based sports consultant, said bringing the Division I wrestling event to Consol would be good for everyone involved.
“It only makes sense that Western Pennsylvania at least look at the idea,” said Malick, who has worked closely with USA Wrestling. “We've got Hall of Famers and Olympians from the area.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.