Sun Belt fans will drive, pay more when tourney moves to New Orleans

Sun Belt Conference fans will travel further and pay more when the postseason basketball tournaments move from Hot springs to New Orleans for the 2013-2014 season.

The Sun Belt announced the move yesterday, walking away from the final year of its contract with Hot Springs. The 2013 tournament will be the final one played at Summit Arena in the Spa City.

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson called it a “great geographical fit for our membership.”

But the fact is that it’s only really a better geographical fit for himself (his office is in New Orleans) and three schools (Louisiana-Lafayette, South Alabama and Troy). Texas State comes in about the same. This makes up the 10 schools expected to be a part of the Sun Belt next year.

On average, Sun Belt fans will drive 30 miles further. Fans of six of the 10 schools will drive at least 98 miles more (each way) to reach New Orleans.

Once they arrive in New Orleans they can expect to pay more. New Orleans’ average hotel rate of $154 ranks among tops in the nation. And that doesn’t include the $25 to $50 per night parking charge many French Quarter area hotels tack on to your bill. Want to catch a taxi from the Quarter to Lakefront Arena? That will cost you upwards of $20 each way.

You can find a cheaper hotel out by the airport. But you’re really nowhere near Lakefront Arena and the things most folks associate with visiting New Orleans. Spend a night out at Bourbon Street and need a cab back to your airport hotel and that will cost you about $28.

The best thing about the Sun Belt Tournament in Hot Springs was the closeness of everything. You would walk down the street and see groups of fans, bands or cheerleaders walking. You’d see the buses from each of the schools parked at the restaurants. There was a lot of interaction going on. That made it fun. And that’s not going to be the case when its spread out across New Orleans.