Advantage Butte rallies around Digger playoffs

Advantage Butte rallies around Digger playoffs

By Bruce Sayler

Advantage Butte accented its whatever-they-need sense of community Tuesday when the membership overwhelmingly OK’d proposals to help Montana Tech with its playing host to college football playoffs this postseason.

The Orediggers will be home for the first round of the NAIA Playoffs this Saturday when they play host to Dickinson State of North Dakota. Advantage Butte took financial action on the project during its November meeting at the Butte Plaza Inn.

It approved a proposal to grant Montana Tech $2,000 to offset the costs of game officials’ expenses. Montana Tech had submitted a request for such prior and the Advantage Butte Executive Board recommended approval. Jeff Gorman of McDonald’s moved for such and Mark Hughes of Super 8 motel seconded the motion. It carried on a voice vote after called by Advantage Butte President Rody Holman of PayneWest Insurance.

The body then discussed the possibility of Montana Tech being in line to play host to a second-round game should the Orediggers be successful on Saturday, advised Ray Ueland of The Metals Sports Bar & Grill and Perkins Restaurant. Holman said the Orediggers would like financial assistance should the game come about, but that assistant athletic director Matt Stepan “is suspicious about putting the cart before the horse” and did not want to present a formal request this early.

However, should the second-round game develop, it would be the following weekend, well before the next Advantage Butte meeting. Butte Civic Center Director Bill Melvin moved for the executive board be allowed by the body to act upon such a request — to approve or negotiate, depending on the amount of funding asked. Gorman seconded and it carried, after some discussion.

Stepan arrived during the discussion and thanked Advantage Butte for the support. He also said the school did not see a need to request financial help from the group toward the Orediggers playing host, also on Saturday, to a first-round match in the NAIA Women’s Volleyball Tournament. Montana Tech will be home against Indiana-South Bend in the matchup.

“It’s $4,000 and we can take care of it ourselves,” he said, answering whether the support would be needed.

He did say, though, that the school was hoping to help alleviate some of the financial burden incurred by the Frontier Conference in such national postseason endeavors in athletics.

“Dr. (Don) Blackketter (Montana Tech Chancellor) is leading the charge for the Frontier Conference on NAIA changes for travel and reimbursement,” Stepan said. “The Frontier bears the brunt of it.”

Holman said Advantage Butte has $41,999.51 in its checking account and is still awaiting word from the Butte-Silver Bow County Commissioners on a request for economic development mill levy money to be dispersed this fall. He said the commissioners received requests from 18 different groups seeking some of the $250,000 to $270,000 to be available. Holman said Advantage Butte has $34,008.00 committed to 2016-17 projects. More requests are expected.

Melvin said the the Civic Center winter sports schedule is filling as Butte Brawl XXII, a mixed martial arts card, is set for Dec. 3, and the first basketball game of the new season will be a Butte High girls’ game against Helena Capital on Dec. 15. He also said a crossfit competition has been booked for early Dec. 10.

Melvin reminded that the annual Montana High School Association meetings are scheduled for Jan. 15-16 in Missoula and suggested Advantage Butte again man a booth at the convention to sell the high school administrators and coaches on The Mining City as a quality location for extracurricular events. Advantage Butte has done such in the past. Gorman moved Advantage Butte register to have a booth at the meetings and George Johnson of the Quality Inn seconded the motion. It carried.

Maroon Activities Center (MAC) director John Thatcher said the Western C Divisional and District volleyball tournaments held during the last month at the facility went well. Holman said Advantage Butte contributed $2,000 toward each tournament. Thatcher said he thought some crowd was lost because the same schools also fielded successful football teams this year and the playoffs likely took some of the fans away from the volleyball tourneys.

Don Peoples Jr., president of the Butte Central Catholic Schools, said both tournaments lost money — $2,490 combined. He said in past years, participating schools made up such losses, but that tournament director Paul Bills of Ennis asked that the MAC or Advantage Butte absorb them this time. Peoples said Bills felt that the action could be a factor on where the tournaments would be held in future years.

The Advantage Butte members discussed the importance of the tourneys bringing customers to Butte businesses and how losses might have felt when the competitions were held elsewhere during recent times. However, the talks were cautious.

Ron Davis of Butte Broadcasting noted Advantage Butte was already into the tournaments $4,000 and suggested the group approach the Butte TBID board about covering the tourney losses. The TBID money comes from the $1-a-night room tax charged at Butte lodging facilities.

Peoples agreed that the C district tourney is not lucrative for motels because most of the participants and fans commute. Others noted money is still spent in town because of it. A desire to keep the tourneys was voiced, too.

Davis and Melvin both said Missoula, especially, in recent years has become more aggressive in procuring tournaments, including trying to pry ones from Butte.

“Missoula really wants that Western A (basketball),” Davis said.

Peoples reminded that the Western A SuperDivisional will be held at the MAC next year, the same time that the Western C will be slating its tourney — meaning that if Butte wants to keep the Western C it will need to find another suitable venue for it for next year.

It will be discussed further.

Peoples told the group that high school wrestling and basketball practices will start on Thursday, and that the MAC will play host to the annual Holiday Hoops youth (club) basketball tournament Dec. 29-30.  He said he is expecting more entries than what played in the tourney last year when it was held closer to the Christmas Day.

Philip Borup, director of the Butte Family YMCA, said the Y Pool will be that site of state B-C swim meet the first weekend of March, and that it received positive reports this fall when out-of-towners were at the facility for meets, visits and training sessions. He said several repairs to the mechanical system were made and the water has since remained clear. Cloudiness had been an issue in the past and cost the facility at least one swim meet as a result. Borup said the team’s invitational meet in early November drew 170 swimmers, up from the 102 who competed last year.

“We’re self-contained, now,” he said. “We can run a meet.”

He was also alluding to staff accreditations for coaching and officiating when he made the statement.

Borup said a starts-and-turns clinic will be held at the pool on Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon, and that more than 200 swimmers are expected for a meet to be held Jan. 14-15. The turnout could double last year’s, Borup said. He said two YMCA meets and three to four Montana Swimming Association meets are planned for the season, along with a Butte High meet.

Stepan confirmed the starting times for Montana Tech’s postseason competitions Saturday are 1 p.m. for the football game versus Dickinson State on Bob Green Field, and 6 p.m. for the volleyball match with Indiana-South Bend in the HPER Complex.

“There’s a lot of excitement around both,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll see a lot of folks walk up the hill to the volleyball match from the football field.”

He said temperatures are predicted to be in the 40s for the football game.

“We have not had a bad-weather game the last two years,” Stepan said, quipping that, “I’ve done a great job of that in the two years I’ve been up there.”

Stepan also represented the Butte Wrestling Club and announced signups will be held Dec. 5-7 at the Butte High School wrestling room. Practices are to start in January.

Gina Evans of the Butte 100 expressed gratitude and congratulations for the Neon Army receiving the Volunteer Group of the Year Award at the recently held Butte Local Development Corporation dinner held at the Fairmont Hot Springs resort. The Neon Army assists with the holding of the annual Butte 100 mountain bike spectacular that is fast gaining more and more world acclaim in biking and sports media. Evans also said it “looks promising” that the Sorini 25 race part of the Butte 100 events will go through Thompson Park next year. It is awaiting U.S. Forest Service approval, she said. Evans said a mountain bike hall-of-famer will deliver a motivational talk prior to the start of next year’s race in Butte, but said she could not yet divulge the name. She added that registration for the Butte 100 will open next week.

The next Advantage Butte meeting was set for Dec. 20 at the Butte Plaza Inn.

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