FAIRBANKS, Alaska In February, the Alaska School Activities Association announced that Anchorage would once again host the Alaska State Wrestling Championships, spurning a bid to host the event here in Fairbanks.
Wrestling is hitting a new level of excellence here in the Interior, even seeing the Lathrop Malemutes win the state title at the end of 2017.
For many, the next logical step for the growth of this sport is hosting major tournaments, including the state championships. Unfortunately that may not be happening for the foreseeable future.
A group recently made an attempt for Fairbanks to become the home of the state's largest wrestling tournament for the next three years.
A bid which was turned down by the ASAA.
Those who put this bid together felt like it was the obvious choice. Booking the Carlson Center and lining up big name sponsors that would cover the cost.
Instead the ASAA board chose to hold the event in Anchorage yet again, an option which was the more expensive of the two.
According to those involved with presenting the bid, hosting state wrestling in Fairbanks would have cost around $15,000 as opposed to the $20,000 Anchorage bid.
This does raise the question as to why the board chose the more expensive option at a time where cost seems to be at the center of every major decision.
Isaiah Vreeman, a representative for the ASAA, thinks that the board’s main factor was the extra cost it would take schools from around the state to come to Fairbanks rather than Anchorage. He went on to say that “State wrestling is unique in that it really is State-wide. A lot of schools participate that would, if it was in Fairbanks for instance, a lot of schools would fly in to Anchorage and then fly up to Fairbanks.”
The group who put the bid together, however, took that additional travel cost into account and worked with Explore Fairbanks to find good deals on travel and lodging for the teams coming up to compete.
"Helen Renfrew over at Explore Fairbanks put together some great packages with local hotels. Our hotel pricing and car rental pricing was cheaper than Anchorage. But still, there is some airfare cost for those schools. I think the schools voted to keep it in Anchorage because they thought it was going to be more cost to their individual school. I think that's how they vote sometimes." Said Lathrop Athletic Director Steve Zanazzo, who was also a big part of the process.
This is just the latest in a long list of events being held in the southcentral region of the state, with only one state event being held in the Interior in 2019, February’s cross country skiing championship.
Economically speaking, this is a pretty big missed opportunity for the City of Fairbanks.
State championship tournaments such as wrestling and basketball are huge for local economies. According to Explore Fairbanks, each wrestling tournament would have brought $576,000 into the community.
Now all this group can do is wait three years for another chance to bring the State's largest wrestling tournament into the interior.