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Sullivan Arena Hosts Great Alaska Shootout for the Last Time

By Corey Allen-Young, Education Reporter, cyoung@ktuu.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:14:23 PM AKST
Updated On: Dec 02 2013 09:00:10 AM AKST

By Reporter Corey Allen-Young and Photojournalist Shawn Wilson.  (KTUU-TV)

ANCHORAGE -

For many basketball fans, the Great Alaska Shootout and cheering in the Sullivan Arena is as much a part of the holiday season as turkey.

"I like the crowd, I like the excitement," said Sara Leckband, whose brother Christian plays for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. 

Pete Stokes has attended for many years, and this time around he brought his grandkids to the tournament. 

"Back in the 80s, I came with my dad, back when we had some real great teams," Stokes said.

He said the teams playing this year are not the same caliber as past greats like the Ray Allen-led University of Connecticut Huskies or Dwayne Wade and the Marquette Golden Eagles. 

The many empty seats may reflect the drop in the quality of teams playing, but Stokes said the tournament brings back a lot of good memories anyway, in part because the tournament will never be played in the Sullivan again. 

The Shootout will move into the new Alaska Airlines Arena on UAA's campus next year. 

"Mixed emotions," Stokes said. "It's a classic down here, but then again UAA will have their own stadium."

School officials said the move is part of a plan to boost game attendance and to make the campus more of a hub for the community.

"We are excited about the opportunity to get our guys back in the building and have them play on their home court," said Keith Hackett, UAA athletic director.

Hackett said reducing the number of seats to 5,000 for basketball will help reengage the community in the Shootout and other events, like high school basketball tournaments and graduation ceremonies. 

Sara Leckband said she believes most fans will like the change.

"Everybody is excited about the new arena," she said. "It's going to be fun to have more of the Seawolf Dome." 

The new arena is expected to open in fall of 2014,  just in time for the 36th Great Alaska Shootout.