Advantage Butte: MHSA may get co-op request this week

By Bruce Sayler

The Montana High School Association (MHSA) may see a presentation about, or even a request for, an Anaconda-Butte Central co-op in two sports when the organization holds its annual meetings this weekend in Butte at the Copper King Inn.

The meetings are set for Friday through Sunday. Butte Central and Anaconda school officials met Tuesday about, perhaps, a final decision on whether to proceed with a request to co-op their high school football and wrestling programs. The subject of the co-op meeting taking place came up at Tuesday’s January meeting of Advantage Butte when it was noted that Butte Central was not represented at the the gathering in the Butte Plaza Inn.

Results of the Anaconda-Butte Central meeting were not yet known, but Ron Davis of Butte Broadcasting Corp., notified the Advantage Butte group that should the decision be to go ahead with the plan, then it will be presented at the meetings. He had been in contact earlier with Don Peoples Jr., president of Butte Central Catholic Schools.

The schools have been discussing a joint venture in the two sports because of recent and projected low turnout numbers.

The co-op was one of a number of prominent topics discussed at the Advantage Butte meeting.

Advantage Butte agreed to pay $2,000 in facility rent for a club volleyball tournament the new Butte Velocity Academy will be playing host to March 30-31. Rody Holman, Advantage Butte president and the representative for member PayneWest Insurance, said the tourney will be headquartered at the Civic Center and the fee was negotiated with Bill Melvin, Civic Center manager.

“Bill will work with Jeni (Hope) on recouping some of the revenue he is giving up,” Holman said, indicating the rental cost is lower than usual. “

Hope is the head volleyball coach at Butte High School.

Holman and Melvin said the tournament has already drawn an entry list of 45 times, more than 30 of which are from out of town. Melvin said the Civic Center’s three portable volleyball floors, of SportsCourts, will be used, as will the annex court at the facility, and possibly both courts in the George Foley Memorial Gym at West Elementary School. Melvin added that the Montana Tech volleyball program will also provide services in helping with the putting up the nets and in staffing the tourney.

“This is really something we want to get started in the community,” Melvin said.

Holman said Hope has already forwarded a thank-you note to Advantage Butte for helping defray tournament costs.

Also, a newer, bigger version of the Jim Street Mining City Duals high school wrestling tournament looks to be on its way. Chuck Merrifield, Butte High activities director, and Matt Stepan, a wrestling official who also wears the hats of Silver Bow Wrestling Association rep and Montana Tech athletic director, both confirmed. As did Melvin. The idea, they said, is to put the tournament back in the Civic Center where it began 31 years ago, but with an expanded field. No number of entries targeted was given, but they said out-of-state teams are being considered. The tourney currently is bracketed for 24 teams and held in both of the Butte High School gymnasiums. Great Falls High won the championship of the most recent holding back in December.

The Montana Special Olympics will return to Butte in November for a three-year run to put on its basketball tournament. It is scheduled for November 7-9 with the Civic Center, the Maroon Activities Center and the Ramsay and Butte School District gyms to be used. Opening Ceremonies will be held at the Civic Center with use donated. Rhonda McCarty of the Special Olympics organization said a game management committee will be empaneled in February.

“We’re looking forward to trying to engage the community in any way we can,” she said.

Butte-Silver Bow Executive Director and Butte 100 mountain bike race owner Stephanie Sorini said registrations for the cycling spectacle still has openings for the 100-mile event. However, the both the 25-mile and 50-mile races have reached their quotas, Sorini said.

“The numbers are up over last year,” she said, noting that though most of the entries have come from Montana, riders from all over the country and even from other nations have also entered.

The Butte 100 is scheduled for July 27.

Davis, an Advantage Butte past president, told the group that Peoples reminded him to mention that the MAC will play host to the Southwestern A district and Western C divisional basketball tournaments next month. The Southwestern A district tourney is set for February 14-16 with the Western C divisional to go on the following weekend, February 21-23.

Also, Davis announced, the annual Southwest Montana All-Star Classic basketball games have been slated for March 12 at the MAC. The games, for high school basketball standouts from the Southwest Montana area, is an Advantage Butte-sponsored event with proceeds benefitting championship event hospitality costs.

Holman reported that the Advantage Butte checking account stands at $38,085.15 with $26,900 in outstanding commitments, $2,900 paid commitments this year and $1,400 paid for last year.

Advantage Butte and the Chamber of Commerce will both be visible at the MHSA meetings. They may share a booth promoting Butte and its attractions and facilities, or might staff separate ones. The MHSA will likely have last word about such, officers said. Advantage Butte will also be the host of a football viewing party at the Copper King on Sunday that will be open to convention-goers. The Patriots-Chiefs AFC championship game is to be shown on a big screen poolside with party amenities offered.

“Hats off to everyone involved,” Holman said. “This is a great chance to showcase our community. The MHSA is truly a business partner of Advantage Butte.”

Melvin said the Civic Center is seeing is heaviest use of the year during these winter months, pointing to several high school basketball games, a bull riding competition, a wrestling tournament and a concert by country singer Chris Janson being among the attractions. The website has more information.

Stepan said practices are underway for the SBAWA coming season, which will open with the Cyclops Invitational in the Butte Civic Center on February 16-17. Stepan said the schedule is more compact this season, so “it’s a benefit that the first tournament of the season is ours.” He added that the April 6-7 Smith/McCarthy tournament will now be the state tournament for Greco-Roman competitors. He said that it is a positive to “allow us to host a state tournament” and to have the tourney earlier in the season before interests begin to wane.

Switching to his Montana Tech administrative role, Stepan reminded that the Oredigger basketball teams are in the middle of competitive Frontier Conference seasons. He also told the group the dates for two fundraisers — Diggers Uncorked, February 15 at the Front Street Station, and the annual auction, April 15.

Bob Lazzari, representing the Butte-Silver Bow Parks & Recreation Department, reminded SNoFLINGA, the Butte winter festival, is being held this weekend, beginning with a showing of a film about Beef Trail Ski Area on Thursday at 518 Designs. Opening Ceremonies are to be held Friday evening at the U.S. High Altitude Sports Center. Other festival events will be held Saturday and Sunday, including the new ski-joring competitions planned for Saturday and Sunday mornings on Hanson Road near the Butte Family YMCA location. Lazzari said 40 ski=joring teams have entered. He said the SNoFLINGA website has the schedule and more information posted.

Maria Pochervina of the Chamber of Commerce and the hospitality association inquired about whether Advantage Butte will want to set up a hospitality venue for the state Class AA softball tournament scheduled for late May at Stodden Park.

It will likely be taken up at the next Advantage Butte meeting set for February 19 in the Butte Plaza Inn.