Record-breaking crowd puts state finals in spotlight

More than 80,000 record-breaking fans attended the Arkansas state basketball championships over three days at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, which could make it more competitive for future hosts.

Bids for next year's finals are up for grabs, and Barton Coliseum will have some competition.

The state basketball finals were a slam dunk at the recently-renovated coliseum in Little Rock -- shattering the previous high attendance mark by more than 15,000 screaming fans.

This number is very eye-catching, especially for other cities who'll hope to bring it to their town in 2014.

While players busted it on the hardwood to make memories that will last a lifetime, the people in the stands made history of their own with the highest attendance ever.

2013 tournament director Terry Hartwick hopes the one-year contract for Barton Coliseum will turn into three more this summer when the Arkansas Activities Association makes its decision.

"All the games should be in Little Rock as far as the state championships because it brings everybody in here," Hartwick said during some of the final games Saturday night.

"We have a lot of hotels, great basketball city and you can get everybody in here to watch the games. Nobody has to sit out in the hallway waiting for the other game to end. You can really come here and watch basketball at its best."

Steve Arrison with Visit Hot Springs may have something to say about that. He told us the "Spa City," will be back in the running for 2014, after deciding to host this year's Sun Belt Tournament, than bid for the state finals.

"We've always thought the high school finals are the best sporting event held in Arkansas every year," Arrison, CEO of the tourism group said. "People say, 'Well that's the Razorbacks.' No, every player that competes is from Arkansas."

Arrison said he believed the numerous teams from Pulaski County played a part in such a drastically larger than normal crowd.

Financially, regardless of attendance, Arrison told us the publicity means everything for a city.

"Everybody in the state of Arkansas is looking at your destination to see what's happening in Hot Springs or what's happening in Little Rock."

Barton Coliseum and Summit Arena in Hot Springs are expected to be among the top bids along with possibility of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, and Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, for the 2014 tournament.

Jonesboro was the only other location that bid against Barton in for the 2013 site.