DANVILLE — After a year away, the NJCAA Division II National Tournament returned to Danville this past week and it was like any other year.
Even with restrictions holding attendance down to 25 percent, the hustle and bustle of tournament games were still there at Mary Miller Gym, leading up to Des Moines Area Community College’s 86-75 win over Davidson-Davie in Saturday’s championship game.
“We never exceeded our ticket allotment, we were balancing the number of traveling fans and the local folks that want to come out and watch games, so there were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd,” NJCAA Committee Chairman Brian Hensgen said. “But when it came to the entire facility, we didn’t exceed that number and that allowed us to remain in the guidelines and had fans enjoy the championship game.”
Hensgen said all the procedures were accepted by the fans and players as the tournament went on.
We were excited to have fans in the gym and put on the tournament. I think after looking back, everything went smooth. The fans seemed to have a good time and seemed to understand us clearing the gym in between games and they went with the flow and as they got more familiar with the facility, it just became more smooth to just leave the gym and circle around until we gave them the OK to return, so it all went pretty smooth.
Even with the number of people attending the games, the chance for Danville hotels and restaurants to get some business was a main issue and according to Danville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jeanie Cooke, business was very good.
It was wonderful and we have a lot of happy people in the hospitality industry today,” Cooke said. “I spot checked hotels and they said everything went well. We were literally at max with all the hotels and it was wonderful. I spot checked restaurants and you can’t miss a basketball team coming into a restaurant and you can’t miss an out of town coach because they are all dressed in gear. We know they were out and about to different restaurants in the city from very small restaurants like Leon’s to larger restaurants like Jocko’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee’s and all of the fast food places, so the spot check confirmed a lot.
“The city was excited to have the tournament because this was the first event we have had in almost a year that brought people to come in and really enjoy our community.”
Along with the usual visitors, Hensgen said there were two new NJCAA representatives that were making their first trip to Danville.
“We had one from the national office and one from the coaches association and it was their first time to Danville,” Hensgen said. “So they were excited about the opportunity to see what kinds of things we have done and put in place for the tournament and were interested to see what protocols that we put in.
“They saw us through the week as far as what we were doing and doing their best to keep their masks on. We have received nothing but positive feedback from the national office and from the coaches that were involved. They loved what they got from the facilities, concessions and all the volunteers. They were appreciative of everything. This could not have been done without the team and it was something. This was a great event and something that the whole community can enjoy.”
Hensgen said he is putting some final touches on this year’s tournament and then he and the committee will get ready to focus on next year’s tournament.
“We just have some things that need to be passed on to the teams and to the national office,” Hensgen said. “Very soon, we will be working on 2022 and looking forward to that event and moving toward full capacity and to bring back the full tournament.”