Reaching the Summit: Summit League’s past and future in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now Sports) - This tournament has just continued to get bigger and bigger and now the Summit League headquarters has moved to Sioux Falls.

We took a look at the growth of what has turned into the biggest sporting event every March in South Dakota.

Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau President Teri Schmidt was with a group who went to the Summit League Tournament in Tulsa 15-years ago, hoping to get the tournament to move here.

More: Reaching the Summit special

"You know I’ll tell you when we first went down to Tulsa to watch the Summit League, I'll never forget this because their stands were virtually empty."

Since the tourney moved to Sioux Falls and the arena in 2009, the stands have been packed, especially when things moved to the PREMIER center in 2015. League Commissioner Tom Douple has been here since the beginning.

"Our attendance obviously was in the '30s, now were close to pushing it up into the '60s. I think one of the things that has helped us is the development of our programs we've improved as a Division I league,” said Douple.

The attendance numbers are particularly high, on the women's side.

"Our women's tournament for the last number of years. Our final game has either been number one or number two in the country for attendance and overall for a tournament. We're up there in the top five for women's basketball."

It's all good for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.

"The excitement isn't just Sioux Falls either, it's regional. People come in from all around the region to watch the games, economically, it's a wonderful piece of business for Sioux Falls."

Sioux Falls has two years left on its contract to host the tournament. With the Summit League headquarters now located in a brand new building at the Sanford Sports Complex, chances are good the tournament won't be moving anywhere anytime soon.

"We've built an equity and a name recognition for the tournament, there's interest there. It's very positive. Hopefully, we're going to be able to sell that to the presidents and we're going to be able to do a new contract."