PEORIA (HOI) -- For 25 years Peoria has been home to the boys March Madness tournament. Then COVID-19 took away the 2020 championships and now the IHSA is taking state basketball away from Peoria.
"It was a gut punch from the news today," said Enjoy Peoria President, J.D. Dalfonso.
Chaimpaign-Urbana's State Farm Center won out over the Peoria Civic Center in the bid to host the boys state finals for the next three years, starting in 2021.
Peoria leaders also wanted to bring the girls tournament to the River City and felt they had a strong bid.
"From past bids we put forward it was the most competitive in pricing and incentives and the opportunity of course that we came off immediately was bringing the girls to the same floor as the boys," explained Dalfonso.
But the IHSA said they felt more than comfortable with the girls finals staying in Normal at Redbird Arena on Illinois State's Campus, the place it has been since 1992.
"Our girls tournament had found continued success. The venue is rich in history for our girls," said Craig Anderson, IHSA Executive Director.
"It's an honor for us to welcome the student athletes, their families, spectators to our campus and to our community each year and we're very proud to provide them a first class championship experience at Redbird Arena," said Illinois State Athletic Director, Larry Lyons.
Then it came down to Peoria versus Champaign-Urbana for the boys, and Anderson says the State Farm Center just out right won.
"The venue is absolutely top notch, the investment that the university made in the facility is really a crowning jewel for this state. There's no sense of Peoria having done anything wrong, they really took our tournament and took it to a high level," explained Anderson.
While March Madness leaves behind a strong quarter of a century legacy in Peoria, it does return to the place that hosted the finals from 1919-1995.
"We can get down in the news that was delivered today, but I think we'll be smiling more when we reminisce about the times and stories that were written. As we pass the torch from Peoria to Champaign I think ultimately we were proud we were able to raise the bar over those 25 years," continued Dalfonso.
The deal with Champaign-Urbana is a three-year bid encompassing the 2021 (March 11-13), 2022 (March 10-12) and 2023 (March 9-11) state tournaments.
When asked about the possibility of rotating March Madness between Champaign-Urbana and Peoria, Anderson said it wasn't something they discussed or considered.