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Sunday, March 6, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Preps Bid Farewell To Old Coliseum

Goodbye, cozy Coliseum. Hello, cavernous Kingdome.

The Class AAA boys and girls basketball state tournament goes big time in a big way next year when it moves to the Kingdome.

The move was necessitated by the renovation of the Seattle Center Coliseum, where the boys tournament has been held since 1977. The girls tournament is played at the Arena.

The Kingdome, home to the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners and the site of the prep football state championships since 1977, hopes to add a new tenant with a possible long-term commitment.

However, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the governing body of high-school athletics, will not rush into a long-term deal.

The Class AAA basketball state tournament is scheduled for 1995, but beyond that, the WIAA has adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

"The Kingdome is immense and we're not a 100 percent sure that it's for us," WIAA associate director Don Bagnall said. "It's a good site, but there are concerns. . . . We can fill the Coliseum, but we can't fill up Kingdome, and that might take away the intimacy from the game."

Current seating capacity for the Coliseum is 14,252. The Kingdome can accommodate 40,000.

The setup at the Kingdome will be similar to that of the Class AA and A basketball tournaments at the Tacoma Dome. Boys and girls games are played simultaneously on two side-by-side courts.

"I don't think (the Class AAA state tournament) will have any problems that we can't handle," Kingdome marketing manager Joyce Williams said. "We've never held anything exactly like it, but we've had similar events."

The Kingdome has held four NCAA West Regional men's basketball tournaments - most recently last year - and two Final Fours in the past 10 years.

The Kingdome is scheduled to host the 1995 Final Four, which Williams said which would not conflict with the Class AAA state tournament.

Some high-school coaches don't think bigger is necessarily better.

"I don't like it at all," said Ed Pepple, Mercer Island boys coach. "In a big building like that, like the Kingdome, a lot of people think that's great, I don't happen to agree.

"I'd much rather play at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. I'd rather jam pack Hec Ed and have that place popping, than go to a big open barn and have two teams playing at the same time."

The Seattle Center Coliseum will reopen in the fall of 1995 and could host the 1996 tournament.

"We hope (the Class AAA state tournament) comes back," said Lois Maag, Seattle Center Coliseum communications manager. "It's a great event, definitely family-oriented . . . We've had a great relationship and I hope it continues."

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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