Winter 2016

|  by Fritz Reznor

Motor City Madness

Horizon League men’s basketball tournament comes to Detroit March 5-8

For the first time in the program’s Division I era, men’s basketball fans won’t have to travel far to cheer on the Golden Grizzlies in their conference tournament. For the next five years, the Horizon League Tournament ― dubbed “Motor City Madness” ― will be hosted by Olympia Entertainment in downtown Detroit.

Joe Louis Arena is the site of "Motor City Madness" for 2016 and 2017. The following three years it will be at the Detroit Events Center, currently under construction. This year’s tournament is March 5-8 and features nine games over the four days. Starting in 2017, the Horizon League women’s basketball tournament will also be held in Detroit.

“We started going to the post-season tournament in 2003,” Golden Grizzlies' coach Greg Kampe recalled, “and this will be the first time we haven’t had to travel. The first year we ever went, it was in Ft. Wayne, and last year it was in Valparaiso, both three- to four-hour drives. All the other years it was a 14-hour trip.

“Now, for the first time, it’s close to home,” he said. "My hope is that it turns into being an every-year experience, and that Detroit’s fan base, Oakland’s fan base and the people of the city of Detroit get behind it and turn it into ‘The Horizon League City.'

We all want it to be an event that the student athletes take away for the rest of their lives.”

That the tournament is being held in Detroit can be directly traced to Oakland joining the Horizon League two years ago and an instant rivalry with the University of Detroit-Mercy that generates crowds and media coverage when the teams meet.

“Olympia Entertainment saw what was happening with the rivalry and the interest it generated in the media,” Oakland Athletic Director Jeff Konya said. “We have 60,000 alumni in this region who can see high-quality basketball and have those opportunities for engagement around Oakland men’s basketball.”

ESPNU will televise both tournament semifinal games on Monday, March 7, with the championship game the following night on either ESPN or ESPN2.

“Eventually, I’d like to see the championship game on CBS,” Kampe said.

It has been nearly 10 years since Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, hosted a basketball game ― the WNBA finals in September of 2006. John Ciszewski, vice president of sales for Olympia Entertainment, said it will be “basketball-ready,” come March.

“We’re purchasing a new court, a new scorer’s table, basketball stanchions, and the people we have working here are real pros,” said Ciszewski, a self-proclaimed “basketball junkie” and a longtime fan of both Oakland and UDM basketball.

All 10 teams will stay at the Renaissance Center, Ciszewski said. The Wintergarden area will be available for pep rallies, entertainment and a spot for people to meet and mingle. An awards banquet and team and local business activities are planned for subsequent years. 

Fans can visit or call (313) 471-7575 for ticket information.

The website features a map of Joe Louis Arena with each school’s designated lower bowl fan sections: Oakland’s sections are 121-122. A “Visitors” link on the site lists suggested hotels, restaurants, activities/entertainment and information of the Ren Cen’s Wintergarden area.

Fans can receive a discount on hotel rooms by referencing “Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament” when making reservations. The and sites also will provide information on other tournament-related activities for Oakland alumni and fans.

Fritz Reznor is a freelance writer from Pleasant Ridge, Michigan.

Olympia Entertainment will host the Horizon League Tournament ― dubbed “Motor City Madness” ― in downtown Detroit for the next five years.