Six months of planning will come to fruition Saturday, as the Washington State men’s basketball team returns to the Tri-Cities.
The Cougars will host Idaho State at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, playing a regular-season game in the Tri-Cities for the first time since 2009.
“The Tri-Cities is a fabulous market for us in Cougar Athletics,” WSU athletic director Bill Moos said in a telephone interview. “We are working hard to grow that market. We want to be as visible as we realistically can.
“We have played down there before and had tremendous turnout in regards to attendance, so we are doing it again.”
Based on ticket sales, fans in the Tri-Cities are just as excited as the Cougars’ staff.
Tickets still are available through Ticketmaster, but assistant athletic director Casey Fox expects a sellout.
“It is outstanding,” he said. “People are excited. Until we announced the game was coming, every time I talked to someone, they would ask when we are bringing basketball back.
“We need the Tri-Cities to be a Coug town. We have almost 10,000 alums, and with the population booming and Pullman being just a two-hour drive away, we need the Tri-Cities to support the Cougs. And in turn, we want to do something to support the Tri-Cities and have events here.”
This will be the third time since 1997 that the men’s basketball team has played in Kennewick.
The Cougars lost 83-82 in overtime to Eastern Washington in 1997, and beat Portland State 93-69 in 2009.
The school has done more than just play basketball here, as the baseball team has played single games each of the last two seasons at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.
This spring, Washington State will face archrival Washington in a three-game series at Gesa Stadium.
“When it works, we’ll take our show on the road,” Moos said. “We love playing here at home in Pullman, but sometimes it makes sense to take our games to markets that we’re trying to secure and grow in.”
It doesn’t hurt that the students are on break in Pullman as well, and the crowd in Kennewick likely will be much bigger than it would be at Beasley Coliseum.
“If every game in Pullman was packed, we’d probably never leave town,” WSU men’s basketball coach Ken Bone recently said by phone. “But there is a lot to be said for going on the road and playing in front of alumni. And it gives some of the guys a chance to play in front of family and friends.
“The team gets good support in these areas, and it is a neutral court, but more home for us than the other team.”
Washington State also played a “home” game against Buffalo on Friday at Seattle’s KeyArena.
“There are a lot of Cougars fans in Seattle, so it is good for the alumni to come watch us,” senior Brock Motum said before the Seattle contest. “I look forward to playing both this game and the Kennewick game.”