By Kevin Collison
The College Basketball Experience adjoining the T-Mobile Center is reopening Thursday with plenty of hoopla after going dark 17 months due to Covid and other challenges to getting its game back on.
The CBE, which opened in 2007, features two floors dedicated to fully physical interactive exhibits and the history of men’s college basketball including coaches, contributors and players, and is home to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
But it’s been quiet since closing March 17, 2019–except for the drunk driver who plowed into its ground floor level off Grand Boulevard last winter, smashing windows and crushing exhibits before stopping about 50 feet inside the building.
“We’re glad to be back and able to reopen our doors to our patrons, fans, customers and visitors who have supported The CBE and Hall of Fame for many years,” Kevin Henderson, CEO, said in a statement.
For the grand reopening Thursday through Sunday, admission for all will be $10.
There will be CBE prize packs for the first 75 patrons Saturday and Sunday; raffles for a flat-screen TV Saturday and Sunday; a Sweetheart Shoot-to-Win contest Saturday at 2 p.m., and 50 percent off most Hoop Shop merchandise all four days.
Celeste Lupercio, senior director of sales, marketing and events, said CBE officials began planning for reopening in April, but ran into multiple challenges including repair work, testing equipment and displays, lots of dusting and most of all, hiring new staff.
“We tried our best to find staff so we could reopen and customer service and part-time positions are tough to fill,” she said.
“Fortunately, some of our former staff said they would help on weekends. Saturday is our biggest day.”
The CBE also decided to cut back its days of operation to Thursdays through Sundays. It’s open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Hall of Fame is booking private events in the venue effective immediately, according to a press release, and is available for rental seven days a week. With the return of basketball season, the venue will also resume adult and youth basketball tournaments.
The CBE will be following all local and national guidelines and city ordinances, including the current indoor mask mandate. Limited capacity will be enforced on an as-needed basis.
Another, non-Covid, challenge has risen for the CBE however, since its closing in March 2019.
The facility is run by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, an organization founded in Kansas City in 1927 by legendary KU coach “Phog” Allen.
Last January, CityScene KC reported the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) was being courted to relocate by other cities including Indianapolis and Dallas.
The potential of the organization leaving prompted civic leaders led by Bill Hall, former executive director of the Hall Family Foundation, and the Kansas City Council to play defense.
The Council approved legislation forgiving an estimated $400,000 in debt associated with the CBE and pledge $50,000 annually for capital improvements to the CBE in return for a commitment by the NABC to remain here for five years.
The NABC has its offices at Town Pavilion, and has been downtown since relocating from Overland Park in 2004.
And while it’s staff is not large, about a dozen people, the organization has had a big role attracting major basketball tournaments that bring significant dollars to downtown.
The NABC and its foundation runs the annual Hall of Fame Classic basketball tournament at the T-Mobile Center, an event that Nelson said generates about $1.5 million in economic activity for the city.
This year’s Hall of Fame Classic will be held Nov. 22-23 and features Cincinnati, Illinois, Arkansas and Kansas State.
The situation about its future in Kansas City remains up in the air.
While the Coaches Association has confirmed its reviewing its location options, no decision has been made so far, said Stephanie Whitcher, chief financial officer.
“The situation with the NABC office hasn’t changed,” she said.
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