The Richmond Coliseum. Photo courtesy of voobie.

The Richmond Coliseum. Photo courtesy of voobie.

In 1990, the 5-year-old Colonial Athletic Association held its conference tournament at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va. for the first time. The previous school it was held at was George Mason University itself, which hosted the tournament at the Patriot Center in 1986. Of course that was when Navy was mid-stride in its three-year conference domination. The conference moved its tournament to the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va. in 1987, and kept it there for three years.

Then came the big move. In 1990 the CAA decided to move its tournament to the Richmond Coliseum, one year before the conference accepted Old Dominion University to replace the United States Naval Academy.

The championship in Richmond has been highly touted. By the numbers, the semifinal games sold out last year, the championship game was televised nationally on ESPN2, there were more than 42,000 fans for the fourth straight year and an estimated $5.8 million was brought to the city due to the tournament.

Twenty years after the first tournament in the Coliseum, the numbers look great, but it has its problems. The Coliseum is run down and it is in a member school’s backyard.

The conference has recognized how the Coliseum has deteriorated, but CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager was quoted as saying, “We are also satisfied with the city’s commitment to enhance some of the amenities in and around the Coliseum during the on-going decision making process.”

The city knows it needs the tournament and is doing everything it can to keep it there.

But that is not the only problem.

The tournament was being played in Richmond, the stomping grounds of the university with the city as its name. The Spiders left the conference in 1991, so that issue died down. The conference could allow itself to look at how it was helping rejuvenate the city’s economy and satisfy the need to play in a location that was near the geographic center of the conference.

Virginia Commonwealth University changed the landscape of the tournament again when they announced they would join the conference as a one-team expansion in 1995.

In the 15 years since, VCU has done well in the tournament, playing what amounts to a home game every game. When Richmond was in the tournament, it won five of seven championship appearances. VCU has done just as well, winning four of five appearances.

On a broader geographic scale, four of the five teams in Virginia have won the tournament at least twice, but George Mason University and UNCW are the best examples of what is wrong with having a tournament in Richmond. Mason has only won four of 10 appearances, while UNCW has gone four of eight. The furthest schools, such as Northeastern and Georgia State, have not even made it to the finals.

Without another plan, the conference has now signed an extension to keep the tournament in the Richmond Coliseum through 2014.

VCU will keep their home tournament for a while. Only time will tell what they can do with it.