Superior Dome to host 8-player state finals

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University will host a pair of state football championship games this fall, a first since 2011.

The two 8-player football finals will be held at NMU’s Superior Dome in November, a return after the first finals were held there six years ago, according to a news release from the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Since then, the finals have been held at the outdoor artificial-turf Legacy Field in Greenville, about 25 miles from Grand Rapids.

The decision was made by the MHSAA Representative Council at its recent spring meeting and announced on this week.

The council discussed long-distance travel possibilities for both sites. The tournament will move to two divisions this fall after playing with one division during its first six years, and both championship games will be played during the same weekend at NMU.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to host the 8-player finals, along with the opportunity to continue hosting 11-player semifinals as well,” said Carl Bammert, NMU’s associate athletic director and supervisor of sports venues that include the Superior Dome. We’re always excited for the opportunity for exposure from getting high school students and their families on campus and at the Superior Dome.”

State championship rounds in three winter sports will also have new homes in the Lower Peninsula in 2018, according to the release.

Girls basketball semifinals and finals move to Van Noord Arena at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. The final two rounds were held at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University for the past eight years, plus three other years more than a decade ago.

Team wrestling finals move for at least the next four years to Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo. They had been at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant for the last two years after a long run at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek before that.

Individual wrestling finals move from one professional sports arena in the Detroit area to another. They will be held over two days at Ford Field in Detroit, the home of the Lions, after 16 years at The Palace of Auburn Hills, now the past home of the Detroit Pistons. The Palace event always needed three days to be completed.

“We received interest from a number of facilities and managers who also value what our championship events provide for teams and their communities, and we’re eager to begin working with Calvin College, Wings Event Center and our familiar friends at Ford Field and Northern Michigan University on these endeavors,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said in the news release.

While the girls basketball finals have moved, the boys will remain at MSU for at least another year.

The contracts for both basketball finals and the individual wrestling finals are only for the coming school year, though they may remain in place longer as they were necessitated by conditions outside the MHSAA’s control.

The Palace is expected to close with the move of the Pistons to the soon-to-open Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, while MSU wants to but wasn’t able to host some early-round NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament games on its home court.