Basketball’s Full-Court Press
20 Jan, 2021By: Peter Francesconi
Basketball has always been one of the most popular sports for travel teams and recreational play, with activity that spans all ages, both male and female. Recent studies by the National Sporting Goods Association indicate more Americans — over 26 million — play basketball than any other team sport.
Finding the right location to hold events means catering to players, fans and families, and these destinations can be an easy lay-up for tournament owners and directors.
The sports-driven Eugene, Cascades and Coast Region of Oregon is home to many basketball facilities — some brand new, some historic landmarks. Plus, there is plenty of adventure and natural beauty for athletes and their families to discover, from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Coast.
Among facilities available for basketball tournaments is the Bob Keefer Center for Sports and Recreation, a 97,000-square-foot multi-purpose complex with six indoor basketball courts — three regulation-size hardwood and three sport court. The venue is one of the largest sports and recreation facilities in the Northwest and can accommodate any size event.
About 50 minutes east of Eugene is the 46-acre U.S. Basketball Academy. The sports camp includes a state-of-the-art indoor basketball arena, two outdoor courts, a weight training/fitness building, Great Hall and swimming pool. Lodges and dormitories can accommodate over 200.
The 40,000-square-foot fieldhouse at the new Civic Park has four middle-school-size hardwood basketball courts, which can be converted into two NCAA-size courts, along with meeting and event spaces and elevated seating. There are also two outdoor basketball courts.
The University of Oregon campus has several basketball venues, which can be used together or independently, including the 12,364-seat Matthew Knight Arena, home to the University of Oregon Ducks team. The campus also has the 15,700-square-foot McArthur Court, with its hardwood basketball court seating nearly 500 fans. In addition, basketball facilities are available at three other campus venues: the Uptown Courts, Midtown Courts and Oldtown Courts.
“Basketball has risen to prominence in the region with the recent success of the University of Oregon men’s and women’s programs,” says Joey Jewell, senior director of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission. “The interest and support from our local community in the sport have led, and continue to lead, to attracting higher-end basketball events.”
Fox Cities, Wisconsin
“Basketball tournaments are a great source of sports tourism for the Fox Cities,” says Matt Ten Haken, the director of sports marketing for the Fox Cities CVB. “During spring and summer, travel basketball tournaments take advantage of open gym space. At the Fox Cities CVB, we try to work hand-in-hand with event directors to ensure their events are successful for everyone involved.”
Among facilities available is the two-year-old, 164,000-square-foot Community First Champion Center, with eight high-school-length courts and seating for about 1,000. The Barn at Lake Park features three high-school size courts and seating for about 300. The 13 area high schools also have a number of courts available, with seating from 500 to 2,000 spectators. In addition, the Alexander Gymnasium at Lawrence University has three college-length courts, with seating for 1,500 fans.
Annually, the Fox Cities hosts the Wisconsin State Invitational Championship, which brings in more than 150 grade-school basketball teams from around the state — about 1,500 players and 3,000 fans. “In 2020, we hosted four Prep Hoops events, which can bring in over 100 teams per weekend with 1,000 players and 2,000 fans,” Ten Haken says.
“We expect to have tournaments with 80 or more youth teams nearly every weekend from late March until the end of July during the travel basketball season,” he adds.
Highland Sports Complex, West Virginia
The Highland Sports Complex in Triadelphia, West Virginia, is brand new, having just opened Sept. 21, but it’s already putting events on its calendar. “Right now, we have 14 basketball events on the schedule for 2021,” says Jason Troop, director of business development for the sports complex. “This is an area that’s been starving for a facility like this.”
Troop says that even though he’s had to turn aside about a half dozen events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has at least one event booked for all sports from January through July. Among the amenities are meeting and event spaces, an on-site café, an arcade and other athletic and entertainment areas, including two Dr. Dish shooting machines to help basketball teams and individuals elevate their games.
The state-of-the-art facility has eight basketball courts. The Fieldhouse, designed to host a variety of sports and tournaments, features six floating maple hardwood courts, with scoreboards, seating for spectators, divider courts and more.
Planned for 2021 and beyond is a new fitness center, outdoor splash pad, zipline and outdoor adventure course. Highland also is working toward WELL Building certification, which is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features that impact health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The main basketball facility in Myrtle Beach is the 100,000-square-foot Myrtle Beach Sports Center, which celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2020. One of the premier indoor sports facilities in the country, the MBSC can accommodate eight basketball courts on 72,000-square-feet of column-free hardwood space. Additionally, the sports center offers several multi-purpose rooms, a trainer’s room, concession stand and indoor and outdoor patio seating. Basketball courts also can be found at several of the recreation centers in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
Each summer, Myrtle Beach hosts several large youth boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments. The National Travel Basketball Association hosts six to seven boys’ and girls’ national events in the Grand Strand each season. In 2019, pre-coronavirus, three NTBA tourneys brought in combined nearly 700 teams — roughly 7,000 players and coaches, not to mention their families.
Additionally, Myrtle Beach hosts several events with local basketball event owner Big Shots, including an NCAA Certified tourney, attracting top teams from across the country as well as college coaches. On the college basketball front, the area has hosted the Myrtle Beach Invitational for the past three years, which is an early season Division I MTE Tournament owned and operated by ESPN Events and bringing in eight top-ranked DI teams from across the country, each playing three games over four days, which all are broadcast live on ESPN networks.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected sports facilities nationwide, “We’ve been pretty fortunate that we’ve been able to have sports tourism events here in Myrtle Beach,” says Jonathan Paris of Visit Myrtle Beach. “We reopened in June and didn’t have a ton of cancellations, although our summer events operated around 50 percent. We made a concerted effort to create good protocols.”
Palm Beach County, Florida
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission is on a mission — to attract basketball events. “We have a good local basketball scene in our communities,” says Glen Allen, the director of sports development for the sport commission. And the county has an excellent venue available — the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, with a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall that can fit a dozen basketball courts.
Other venues include Village Park in Wellington, whose main building houses three hardwood floor basketball courts. Jupiter Community Park has six lighted outdoor basketball courts, and the Burns Road Community Center in Palm Beach Gardens has two courts.
Five years ago, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission created its own Holiday Basketball Classic of the Palm Beaches, which is a high school invitational. While the event had to be canceled for 2020, the event brings in 32 teams (16 boys, 16 girls). “We created it to bring exposure to our rich basketball culture,” says Allen, “and we’re continuing to grow this event.”
Rocky Top Sports World, Tennessee
The 86,000-square-foot indoor multi-sport venue at Rocky Top Sports World features six basketball courts (plus four more elsewhere onsite). In March 2019, the venue held one of its largest basketball events, the Tennessee Miracle, a spring tournament that featured 206 teams and more than 3,000 spectators. More recently, the Gatlinburg Hardwood Classic presented by Teammate Basketball, held in February, brought in 90 teams and about 1,400 spectators in 2020, and is on the books again for Feb. 20-21, 2021.
“Basketball is a top-three sport hosted at Rocky Top Sports World,” says Business Development Manager Andrew Capps. “A majority of our current basketball operator partners are coming back annually and our waiting list of promoters who want to run events is always growing. Gatlinburg and Sevier County help our venue to attract teams due to all the opportunities for the players and their families to transform a tournament experience into an unforgettable vacation while in town.”
Rocky Top helps to market and promote events on its website, which is designed to be found through search engines such as Google when a team, coach or parent is looking for basketball tournaments to attend. “We also send email newsletters to our databases with sport-specific details for the upcoming months,” adds Capps.
The Tulsa Sports Commission continues to bring top sports events to the city, including NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship action. In downtown Tulsa, the wood floor of the BOK Center, which seats 20,000, has been the home to March Madness first- and second-round play, along with various other basketball tournaments. The award-winning venue has also been the home of the NBA’s OKC Thunder.
For many basketball events, the Union Multipurpose Activity Center (UMAC) offers four high-school size courts. UMAC has the John Q. Hammons Arena, which can seat 5,662 fans, along with meeting rooms, a sports medicine center, concession stands, electronic scoreboard and more. The Titan Sports & Performance Center is a new state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor sports complex, offering eight basketball courts, a sports performance training center, concessions and more. The venue plays host to local and regional tournaments and, for families, is within easy reach of more than 50 restaurants, hotels, shopping and other entertainment venues.
On the college front, the University of Tulsa’s Reynolds Center is an 8,335-seat multi-purpose arena, while Oral Roberts University offers the 11,300-seat Mabee Center. The venues have held numerous state high school and college basketball championships.
“Successful group travel goes beyond accommodations and agendas,” says Joel Koester, director of sales for the Tulsa Sports Commission. “Our free planning resources can help plan a day, weekend, week, or longer stay in Tulsa that fits your group’s interests. From site selection to hands-on support the day of your event, our team will be there to help every step of the way.”
Wicomico County, Maryland
“Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland loves basketball — from watching the Governors Challenge or the Harlem Globetrotters at the Wicomico Civic Center, to local recreation leagues and pick-up games at our local parks, the community supports all varieties of hoops,” says Cole Lacey, assistant manager of Wicomico County Tourism. “Between our premier facilities and our proximity to the beach, Wicomico County is an ideal destination for players, coaches and families.”
The Wicomico Civic Center features a 30,000-square-foot arena with seating for 5,000-plus. The venue also offers a 10,000-square-foot secondary arena, four SnapSport flooring systems, 10 meeting rooms, locker rooms, a promoter’s lounge, concession stands and free parking.
Salisbury University offers an indoor basketball gym with seating for 2,300. And the University of Maryland Eastern Shore William P. Hytche Athletic Center has a capacity for 5,500 fans. The facility was recently renovated and now includes new markings on the basketball court and redone locker room facilities.
In its 40th year, the Governors Challenge has grown to be the largest holiday basketball event in the country. In a typical year, the event features more 120 teams from numerous states and Canada. The Wicomico Civic Center has also hosted the Amateur Athletic Union 8U Boys Basketball National Championships. SDM