There aren’t many cities in the U.S. lucky to have a large, established grass-roots sporting event that attracts visitors and tourism dollars to city coffers, but Spokane, Washington is one of them. Ever since 1990, the city has shut down its downtown core for two days and hosted thousands of players on hundreds of teams who play on its streets…and then eat in its restaurants, shop in its stores and drink in its bars. Since 1990, the event, which was originally founded by volunteers to raise money for the Special Olympics, has become the largest 3-on-3 street basketball tournament and family festival of its kind in the world.
Today, a typical Spokane Hoopfest event 7,000 teams and 27,000 players. Players come in from all over the country, and it takes about 450 courts to host the 14,000 games played during the event. The event, which was held this past weekend in Spokane, has developed into much more than a basketball tournament, according to the Spokane Hoopsfest Association. Activities have been added to enhance the event experience such as a youth and adult center courts, games and contests for every age, music playing throughout downtown, merchandise tents, and more.
“With so many thousands of people in town for Hoopfest, Spokane's economy is greatly impacted each June,” according to the SHA on its Web site. “A survey was conducted in 2006 by an independent third party to accurately assess the spending done by Hoopfest participants over the course of the event weekend. Using this survey, Hoopfest predicts that the event brings $39 million into the Spokane economy. This figure includes everything from hotel rooms and shopping to entertainment and dining.”
The event also raises money for charity. Since 1990, the SHA has donated about $1.6 million to the Special Olympics and other youth sports programs. The event enjoys the full support of the City of Spokane, and operates almost entirely on a volunteer basis: typically, about 3,000 people volunteer to help make the event a reality.
The huge event also attracts attention on a more nationwide basis. This year, ESPN broadcasted their flagship show “Sportscenter” from the heart of Spokane Hoopfest on the last day of the tournament. Surrounded by fans and players alike, anchors Matthew Barrie and Jaymee Sire hosted "Sportscenter" from the middle of Hoopfest. The ESPN show often takes its broadcast on the road during the summer to local sporting events around the country.
Bailee Neyland, marketing director of Hoopfest, told local media source KREM2 that the exposure by ESPN was a “dream come true.”