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Would you like to see the Class AA and B boys state basketball tournaments at Metra on the same weekend?

Metra General Manager Bob Wagoner and Billings Public Schools Activities Director Dave Williams would like for fans to get that opportunity.

They've submitted a bid to the Montana High School Association for such an event in 2004. The MHSA Board of Control will consider the proposal Tuesday and Wednesday in Helena when they meet to determine sites for 2003-04 school year.

"I've seen it done in other areas and it was quite successful," Wagoner said.

Wagoner thinks having two tournaments would attract more fans and give more players a chance to play at Metra.

"It would create excitement for a lot of different people. It's exciting to play for 6,000 or 8,000 people. I know when my kids were in high school, it was a big deal for them to play in a big building.

"We want to give the state options. They may like it and they may not like it."

Jim Haugen, the executive director of the MHSA, thinks the board will give the proposal some consideration.

"I was just at a national meeting about brackets and formats and how you get to state and they're all different," Haugen said. "I'd try anything if the membership wants to. There are different kinds of thoughts and maybe we'll find something we like."

The Billings proposal wouldn't change the present format of loser-out games on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Those games would, however, be moved to the local high schools, perhaps putting them all at one site or having the AA games at one venue and the B games at another.

Such a plan does mean there would eight first-round games played on Thursday.

"We think we could start at 9:30 a.m. and be done around 10:30 p.m.," Williams said.

Four semifinal games would be played on Friday and they could start in early or late afternoon and the same would be true for Saturday's two consolation and two championship games.

"It's an interesting concept," Williams said. "I think it would be good for the community. It would be a boon for the economy and it would maximize the facility."

There is a precedent of sorts. The Eastern A and District 3B boys tournaments were at Metra on the same weekend in 1990.

There was one difference from the current proposal in that the 3B first-round games were on Wednesday and the Eastern A first-round was Thursday. Also, the Friday loser-out games in 3B and the Saturday morning loser-outs in Eastern A were played at Billings Skyview.

But all other games were at Metra and Laurel AD Herb Townsend, who was an assistant coach with the Locomotives at the time, remembers that the weekend was a success.

"It was great." Townsend said. "Metra is a great facility and it was a tremendous atmosphere."

Cal Spangler, who is the superintendent at Shepherd, recalls those tournaments and said, "It was a packed house. Anytime you can bring more exposure for the students, I'm in favor of it."

Spangler said the only reason more tournaments weren't combined was "we couldn't get the dates at Metra. It was just logistics."

Spangler is hoping the Billings' bid succeeds.

"I think it would work very, very well. I support it."

Down the line, both Williams and Townsend expressed hope that state boys and girls tournaments could be played in conjunction at Metra.

That isn't possible now because the boys and girls tournaments are going to be staggered for at least the next two years.

In case the MHSA doesn't go for the two-tournament proposal, Wagoner and Williams have prepared a bid for the 2004 Class C boys tournament. Ed West is a Gazette sports writer. He can be reached at 657-1325 or ewest@billingsgazette.com

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