UPDATE: IHSA Cancels March Madness Tournament Due To COVID-19 Concerns

Mar 12, 2020
Originally published on March 12, 2020 7:32 pm

UPDATE: The Illinois High School Association canceled all remaining winter activities Thursday evening, including the Boys Basketball Tournament in Peoria.

IHSA Director Craig Anderson said while the state and local health department supported continuing the tournament with spectator restrictions, multiple schools were withdrawing from participating or hosting the events.

Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO JD Dalfonso said in a statement he supports the IHSA's decision, reiterating that health and safety come first.

Anderson said it's too soon to make any decisions about spring tournaments.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Illinois High School Association is closing the remaining games in the Boys Basketball Tournament to the public.

The IHSA said it is limiting the remaining games at the Peoria Civic Center to 60 spectators after consulting with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Peoria City/County Health Department on COVID-19 concerns. 

IHSA Director Craig Anderson said while this was a difficult decision, health and safety must come first. 

"This is extremely tough. You know, I'm local," said Anderson, a Washington native. "This event is the crowning jewel of IHSA. Has been for years. It's our longest running tournament. So to make this adjustment is extreme, and you know it really, really is difficult." 

Anderson said it's particularly tough for long-time volunteers who won't be admitted. Anderson said the health department isn't requesting medical testing for anyone attending this weekend, including players. 

Full refunds will be available for tickets purchased. 

Peoria Area CVB CEO JD Dalfonso said he anticipated more than $4.4 million in economic impact over the next two weekends - primarily from hotel and restaurant traffic. 

"Safety is number one priority. So despite the economic impact that may be missing out because of some of the decisions that have to be made, the top priority is still public safety," Dalfonso said. "And with that, we know we're making the right decision, and that's first and foremost our priority." 

Peoria Civic Center general manager Rik Edgar said no other events are canceled or facing visitor restrictions at this time. He said more hand sanitizer and other cleaning materials will be made available for guests. 

The March Madness Experience and other tournament-related activities are also canceled. The health department is not recommending attendance limits for other large gatherings at this time, though many venues are voluntarily postponing or canceling events as a precaution. 

For those now unable to attend, Anderson said they're working with the NFHS streaming service to make live video of the games more accessible. 

Here's the full list of activities under attendance limits:

  • Class 1A/2A Boys Basketball State Finals on Friday & Saturday, March 13-14 at the Peoria Civic Center.
  • Class 3A Sectional Semifinal on March 12.
  • Class 3A & Class 4A Sectional Finals on March 13 & 14.
  • Scholastic Bowl Sectionals on March 14.
  • Class 3A & Class 4A Super-Sectionals on March 17.
  • Scholastic Bowl State Finals on March 20.
  • Class 3A & Class 4A State Finals on March 20 & 21.
  • Debate State Finals on March 20 & 21.
  • Drama/Group Interpretation Sectionals on March 20 & 21.
  • Drama/Group Interpretation State Finals on March 27 & 28
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