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Okawville Showcasing O-Rena for SIJHAA State Boys Basketball Tournament

By Travis Volz

When offered a chance to showcase his school’s facilities, Okawville athletic director Jon Kraus jumped at the opportunity. 

For the last two weekends, fans of teams in the SIJHSAA Boys Class M Tournament have been filing into the O-Rena to watch their teams battle for the title.

“Hosting the tournament wasn’t something we lobbied for, but it’s worked out great for us,” Kraus said of the opportunity to host teams from across southern Illinois.

Kraus said that he first heard from SIJHSAA Executive Director Greg Hale before Christmas, when he was presented with the request to host the tournament, which traditionally is held at Rend Lake College.

“From what they told me, the SIJHSAA was worried that COVID restrictions at Rend Lake would make it hard for fans,” Kraus said. “Greg asked us if we’d be willing to host, and it so happened that it fit our schedule.”

Boys games in the SIJHSAA State Tournament are normally scheduled for Friday and Wednesday, with the finals held on Friday. It so happened those dates did not interfere with high school games this year, which made it an easy decision for Kraus.

Kraus said that fans from other towns have expressed their appreciation for the O-Rena. “I’ve had people come up to me and tell me they’re overwhelmed by our facilities,” he said.

In addition to a showcase for the district, Kraus says that hosting the tournament finacially benefits the school’s athletic programs. This year, the baseball and volleyball teams are sharing the proceeds from the concession stand and T-shirt sales.

“The kids are working and earning money for their sports, so that’s a good thing for them,” said Kraus.

So far, hosting the event is a one-year arrangement, but Kraus said he would be open to making it more permanent. That would require some future game dates to be rescheduled, but that’s a question for another day.

“We’re just trying to put on a good show here, but if they were to ask us to do it again, we’d definitely be interested,” said Kraus.

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