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Despite problems, state tournaments will remain at Jim Norick Arena, officials say

by Ed Godfrey Modified: March 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm •  Published: March 12, 2014

The Big House needed a handyman last week.

During Saturday’s Classes A and B state basketball championship games at State Fair Park’s Jim Norick Arena, water dripped from the roof onto the arena floor. The wet spots near mid-court had to be constantly dried with towels during timeouts and other stoppages of play.

On Friday during the semifinals, the arena floor went dark twice — once for 10 minutes and another for 15 minutes — disrupting play. The lights on the concourse remained on and concessions were not interrupted, said Scott Munz, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Oklahoma State Fair.

“The arena didn’t go completely dark,” he said.

The Class 2A, 3A and 4A state basketball tournaments begin Thursday, and no one is expecting a reoccurrence of the same problems, but the arena is almost a half-century old, having been completed in 1965.

A downed power line down outside the arena was the cause of the first outage on Friday and an unknown “power bump” or “power surge” caused the lights to go out a second time five hours later, Munz said.

When power is interrupted, even for a second, the halogen lights above the arena floor must cool down before they can come back on, he said.

The roof has been patched, and an electrician inspected the arena but couldn’t determine the source of the second outage, he said.

“It doesn’t appear to be an internal deal,” Munz said.

Despite the problems, it will take much more than a leaky roof and a couple of power outages before the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association would even consider moving the small school state basketball tournaments to another venue.

“It would have to be a whole lot worse than what it is now,” said Jerry Johnson, superintendent of Bethel Public Schools and former girls basketball coach.

Everyone wants to play in the Big House, even if it is a house that needs a few repairs. Ed Sheakley, exectuve director of the OSSAA, said no school administrator or coach has raised any concern about playing in the arena this week.

“I have complete confidence they are they are going to get these issues fixed so we don’t have these problems this coming weekend,” he said.

Sheakley said the arena at State Fair Park is where the schools and their patrons want to play.

“It’s got so much history to it,” he said. “I think we have been there since ’68 or ’69, and our rural people really like it and don’t want to move from there. They don’t want to go downtown. They like where it is at.”

That’s why the OSSAA schedules 9 a.m. state tournament games during the the semifinals and finals. The coaches want it that way so more teams can play in the arena.

“The vast majority of schools, 4A on down, want to play in the arena,” said Johnson, who won four state championships at Bethel and made 16 trips to the state basketball tournament before retiring as coach three years ago.

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by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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