The 2016 NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden were amazing, and extremely well executed. I'm a wrestling junkie who needs it in his veins, so of course I had an awesome time in the Big Apple for three days of wrestling. While my positivity may be borderline excessive, I am writing this in the eye of "do we (NCAA D1 Wrestling) come back?"
Starting in the beginning, flying direct was a nice treat from Grand Rapids to LaGuardia airport. This allowed me to work Wednesday (since Big Tens were just a couple weeks ago), and fly out Thursday morning being there in plenty of time. I can't fly direct to Lincoln, Des Moines, or Oklahoma City so this was a plus for me and, I imagine, several other fans flying in from other areas.
Hotel and beer prices were expensive, but you are also in New York. It was nice having the history and landmarks around throughout the weekend making an impressive backdrop. As a resident of Michigan, I don't get to Manhattan too often. Also, the Wrestlers in Business Network social at the NYAC, and strolling through Times Square about 20 times made me content with eating the extra cost and my hotel was not incredibly overpriced for what it was. There are so many hotels in New York that fans are going to have a worse time getting a decent room in the vicinity of Iowa City for the Olympic Trials than they should have had getting near the Garden.
My tweets about falling in love with Jimmy's Corner bar off 44th near Times Square were genuine. There was awesome memorabilia in the tiny watering hole, the staff was friendly, and the beers were $3. There were a lot of pizza by the slice stands and food trucks to ensure food didn't carve up your whole budget.
Madison Square Garden is a special place and I certainly don't have to go in to the many reasons why. Making an east coast splash in the media capital of the world is something that was great for wrestling. The event wasn't perfect. Most notably, the arena said to switch to the "dog bone" for Friday night's session had to be done with union workers and would have cost the NCAA thousands of dollars. So the mat setup was just simply 2 of them removed. Gotta love big city politics.
Next year's tournament will return to St Louis, and then go to Cleveland to finish out the 4-year bidding cycle that was last implemented. I enjoyed my experience in Manhattan, but it is not for wrestling too often. I think the Garden should play host every 7-10 years is my humble opinion.
For many reasons, filling arenas across the United States also has tremendous value. This tournament is one of the best sporting events on the planet. Although that comes through the lenses of a wrestling junkie, it's a 3-day event selling out arenas filled with 15,000-20,000 people per session. I don't care what it event it is when you draw like that, cities want you and appreciate you. Making these "splashes" in various cities is great to show off the excitement, drama, and passion this tournament undoubtedly delivers every year.