The Florida High School Athletic Association announced the signing of a two-year extension with the RP Funding Center — formerly The Lakeland Center — to keep boys and girls high school basketball state championships in Lakeland for the 2018 and 2019 tournaments.
The high school state basketball tournaments will remain in Lakeland — at least for two more years.
The Florida High School Athletic Association announced Tuesday the signing of a two-year extension with the RP Funding Center — formerly The Lakeland Center — to keep boys and girls high school basketball state championships in Lakeland for the 2018 and 2019 tournaments.
“I was glad we got this extension done, and hopefully we can work toward longer terms,” said Tony Camarillo, executive director of the RP Funding Center.
“I think we bought ourselves a little bit of time. We have the new executive director (George Tomyn) for the FHSAA, and we are hoping to establish a good relationship with him and to wow him, and then work toward a deal for a multiyear agreement and potentially look at other sports.”
Other sports include the girls volleyball state tournament and the return of the wrestling state finals, the latter of which was held in Lakeland continuously since 1998 until moving to Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee in 2015. The wrestling state finals were also held in Lakeland from 1993-95.
“We look forward to providing a top-notch facility for the student athletes of the State of Florida and providing a great event for our community and visiting guests,” Tomyn said in a news release Tuesday.
According to Camarillo, under the terms of the extension, the FHSAA will receive the first $212,500 of revenue from the tournaments and then 60 percent of the gross receipts afterward, with the RP Funding Center receiving 40 percent. In past years, the split was 65-35 in favor of the FHSAA.
The boys basketball state finals first came to the facility – then known as the Lakeland Civic Center – in 1977 and were played there continuously through 1990 before a five-year move to the Tallahassee-Leon Civic Center. The tournament returned to Lakeland in 1996. The girls state finals came to the center in 1989-90 and then returned in 1994.
The RP Funding Center, now home to the Lakeland Magic — the Orlando Magic’s NBA G League team — is undergoing a $14.7 million renovation project. Upgrades include the installation of digital scoreboards with jumbo HD screens on all four sides of the arena, which will also be utilized for the high school state finals.
“I have been working hand-in-hand with the FHSAA with negotiations for wrestling and volleyball,” Polk County athletic director Dan Talbot said. “It is just a little difficult right now because we don’t know the dates of the G league yet. Once we get a look at the schedule, we can go after more things.”
Camarillo said the current renovations are just phase I of the project to get ready for the Magic, then work will begin to upgrade the common areas.
“We are raising the bar here,” Camarillo said. “If we can find the dates we would love to do (wrestling). It was a very successful run when it was here, and there is always talk of bringing that back, and other sports as well.”
Dates for the 2018 girls basketball state finals are Feb. 26 through March 3, and the boys tournament runs March 5-10. The girls 2019 tournament is slated Feb. 25 through March 2 and the boys tournament is slated to take place March 4-9.