GLENS FALLS - The best high school basketball teams in the state will be competing soon in the Glens Falls Civic Center for championship titles, and the local organizing committee is anticipating sizeable crowds.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association's boys basketball state tournaments - representing 700 schools outside New York City - are set for Friday through Sunday March 20-22.
Then the next weekend, the New York State Federation tournament - for both boys and girls teams - is scheduled for March 27 through 29. The state Federation of Secondary Schools includes Catholic and independent academies as well as schools from New York City.
This year, basketball fans coming to Glens Falls will be treated to additional prizes and promotions, as well as a revitalized downtown, local organizing committee marketing representative Jim Brown said Monday.
"People from throughout the North Country will discover that Glens Falls is a great family destination, a safe community with a great safety record and a good place for high school kids to be around," he said.
Tickets are now available online - a first for the tournaments - through the website www.nysbasketball.net.
Restaurants, taverns and retails stores in downtown Glens Falls will be welcoming tournament attendees with giveaways, promotions and considerable goodwill, he said.
"This year, we'll been offering more of a festival atmosphere," he said.
Local people are also urged to attend the state tournaments, which annually include incredibly talented players, he said, noting that a dozen or more high school standouts competing in Glens Falls through the years ended up as NBA and NCAA college players.
Such stars include Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Chris Mullin, Christian Laettner, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Mashburn.
Brown, an executive in the trust dept. at Glens Falls National Bank, has been involved in the state tournaments since they first came to Glens Falls in 1981. He became marketing director of the organizing committee in the mid-1990s.
This year, Brown will be leading a tour of athletic association officials through not only the civic center, but downtown as well - to show them the recent upgrades and construction that are making Glens Falls more of a family destination.
The public high school basketball championships draw a crowd of 17,000 to 19,000 per year, while the federation tournament attracts from 5,0000 to 7,000 spectators.
Attendance either weekend is boosted by the participation of one or more teams based in upstate New York, he said.
In 1998 and 2001 when Schenectady High School was participating in the federation tournament, several thousand more fans than normal filled the civic center's seats, he said.
Avid basketball fans have an additional reason for attending the tournaments in the Glens Falls Civic Center, he said.
Those who want to mix watching NCAA games with witnessing the high school championship play can duck out of the arena during the weekend as they wish and watch the NCAA tournament action on large flat-screen monitors in the Civic Center's Heritage Hall, where refreshments and socializing are readily available, he said.