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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016: Sec. 5 basketball loses Blue Cross Arena dates

   Leading off today: One of the longest-running Section 5 traditions -- playing boys basketball finals at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester -- will fall by the wayside this season.

   Two American Hockey League games and a concert are booked for the building for the first weekend of March, leaving Section 5 looking for other locations for the finals, which have been played at the downtown arena every year since at least the last 1960s.

   Local media reported that Jeff Calkins, general manager of Blue Cross Arena, was not immediately available for comment.

   In past years, arena officials consistently reserved sets of dates for the basketball semifinals and finals. Section 5 moved semifinals to other locations last season in part as a cost-cutting measure. It's not clear if that contributed to the decision to not set aside dates for the 2017 high school tournament.

   Besides the AHL's Amerks, the major tenants of Blue Cross Arena are the indoor lacrosse Knighthawks and basketball Razorsharks.

   From a logistics perspective, the loss of availability of Blue Cross Arena and the likelihood that college gyms won't be available shouldn't hugely affect the finals in most classes. But the Class AA and A-1 finals featuring the section's largest schools would be all but certain to attract crowds much larger than college or high school gyms could accommodate.

   Change of address: I stumbled across this tweet just as I was wrapping up today's blog, and it's a definite blow for one of Section 2's traditional large-school powers.

   I believe the news was original reported Tuesday by the I-90 Elite AAU program, where Brown plays in the offseason.

   Brown was a fourth-team all-state selection in Class AA last season as a Shenendehowa junior.

   Schedule revisions: Section 3 has rebuilt schedules for its National Football Foundation following last week's announcement that South Lewis had dropped the sport due to low player turnout.

   The most notable change was in the Kickoff Classic. Port Byron/Union Springs, which was to have played South Lewis, will now face Bishop Grimes on Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

   New hires: Tupper Lake has selected ice hockey and golf coach Dan Cook as its new athletic director. Cook, who had been a math teacher in the district for eight years, began his new responsibilities last week.

   The Daily Star tweeted this week that boys basketball coach Greg Bonczkowski is the new AD at Gilbertsville-Mount Upton.

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   Crunching numbers: The NYSPHSAA reported the results of its 2015-16 participation survey this week. The numbers show 575,903 participants on 33,989 sports teams ranging from the modified to varsity levels.

   The numbers reflect a slight dip from the 583,106 participants in 2011-12, when there were just 31,993 teams. Boys comprised 53.3 percent of the athletes. The largest number of participants was at the varsity level, where 272,947 athletes were involved in 32 sports.

   The growth sports since four years ago in terms of the number or players are badminton, fall and winter cheerleading, cross country, nordic skiing and indoor and outdoor track.

   The source data that I saw last month was slightly less complete than the final version released by the NYSPHSAA this week, but the participation drops in a few sports were eye-opening:

  • Wrestling: down 14.3 percent
  • Swimming: down 10.7 percent
  • Football: down 8.9 percent
  • Softball: down 8.8 percent
   For both boys and girls, outdoor track remains the No. 1 participation sport in New York. Nationally, football is the No. 1 boys sport.

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