Basketball Makes a Fast Break | Sports Destination Management

Basketball Makes a Fast Break

Dec 27, 2018 | By: Peter Francesconi

Al Sermeno Photography /
Most youngsters growing up in the U.S. have, at some point in their lives, bounced a basketball and shot for the hoop. Basketball courts are everywhere — at schools, in playgrounds, on driveways and more. In fact, for children ages six to 17 who currently do not participate in basketball, the sport is high on the list as an “aspirational” sport, according to research by the Physical Activity Council (PAC).

In terms of team sports participation, basketball continues to hold strong, with about 23.4 million participants ages six and up, based on year-end 2017 PAC data, the latest available. That total is up about 4.7 percent from 2016, and has pretty much held steady over the last five years. Of that total, “core” participants, who play the sport at least 10 times, total nearly 15 million, which is a slight decline over the last five years.

Around the country, the sport can be found in all communities, including these top venues for basketball tournaments and events.

Abilene, Texas
“Abilene is stepping up its game with the construction of our new Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center, which is expected to open in November,” says Debi Schultz, the director of sales for the Abilene CVB.

The 55,500-square-foot, $11.5 million, multi-purpose indoor facility will have four hardwood regulation-size basketball courts with automated draping to separate them, state-of-the-art audio/video technology, seating for 700 spectators, concessions and more. The new facility is already attracting interest from state, regional and national rights holders for basketball events and other sports. The facility is close to transportation, including the airport, and for families, it’s within walking distance of the zoo.

The city has been hosting basketball tournaments at its current venues for many years. In fact, the Polk Key City Girls Basketball Classic, held the third weekend in November, has been running since 1952. The tournament uses courts at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene High School and Cooper High School. The Catclaw Classic Boys Basketball Tournament is held the second weekend in December and the Eula Holiday Classic, for both boys’ and girls’ basketball, is held the last weekend in December, bringing in 32 teams.

Abilene is home to three universities, with sports facilities available for tournaments and events. The Moody Coliseum at Abilene Christian University has seating for 4,600 fans; the Mabee Complex at Hardin-Simmons University can accommodate 2,500 spectators, and Kimbrell Arena at McMcurry University can seat 2,250. In addition, the Abilene school district offers 12 gyms and the Wylie district has six gyms.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln CVB

Lincoln, Nebraska
This past March, the men’s basketball team at Nebraska Wesleyan University, based in Lincoln, won the 2018 Division III national title. College basketball is big in Lincoln, with the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers playing their home games at the 16,000-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Arena also hosts preseason NBA games along with NCAA women’s regional action and high school state championship play. Also, on the campus of the University of Nebraska is the Bob Devaney Sports Center, which has an 8,000-seat arena and hosts state high school events.

The newest venue in Lincoln for basketball tournaments and events is the multi-sport Speedway Village. The indoor venue opened in May, designed for basketball and volleyball. For basketball, the 80,000-square foot indoor facility accommodates eight courts—two collegiate sized and six sized for high school play. The venue offers locker rooms, along with an upper deck mezzanine with viewing areas.

“Speedway Village has everything you’d need for a daylong event or a weeklong tournament,” says Derek Bombeck, the sales development manager for the Lincoln CVB. “It’s privately owned, but we work with them to bring in larger events. They do a lot with the local teams and clubs in Lincoln.”

Lincoln annually hosts the massive YMCA Midwest Invitational Basketball Tournament in March, which brings in more than 400 teams and takes over gyms throughout the city.

Photo courtesy of Myrtle Beach Sport Sports Center
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
For families traveling with young athletes, it’s hard to beat all that Myrtle Beach has to offer. Among the attractions, though, are top-notch athletic venues, including the Myrtle Beach Sports Center. The $12 million facility opened about three years ago and offers 100,000 square feet of flexible indoor space, which can be configured for eight basketball courts, all with hardwood flooring.

Located in the heart of Myrtle Beach, just two blocks from the ocean and steps away from shopping, dining and entertainment options, the Sports Center also has seven team rooms, telescopic bleachers, a private mezzanine for elevated viewing and a café with indoor and outdoor seating. The National Travel Basketball Association (NTBA) holds a number of events at the Sports Center every year; one of these events, the NTBA National Championships, recently was named a Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism by Sports Destination Management in its annual awards program.

The expanded and renovated Myrtle Beach Convention Center, with more than 100,000 square feet of space, is another venue that can easily accommodate multi-court basketball events. It annually hosts the Beach Ball Classic high school event, started in 1981, and the Carolina Women’s Challenge.

There’s also the HTC Center at Coastal Carolina University, which has hosted Big South men’s and women’s basketball championships and the ACC Women’s event in 2017. It will also host the Myrtle Beach Invitational in 2019 and 2020.

With its 60 miles of coastline, there’s never a lack of things to do in the Myrtle Beach area. For families, entertainment options are plentiful — from theater, to concerts to theme parks and much more. There are also hotels and restaurants that fit all budgets, making the destination attractive to traveling teams.

“Basketball remains a strong market for sports tourism in Myrtle Beach,” says Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism with Visit Myrtle Beach. “In 2018, we hosted the inaugural Myrtle Beach Invitational early season basketball tournament with ESPN Events. This tournament was sold out, but also provided tremendous exposure for Myrtle Beach as all 12 games were on the ESPN family of networks.”

Photo courtesy of Go Rockford
Rockford, Illinois
Rockford, which received the NASC’s Sports Organization of the Year Award in 2016, has been a pioneering sports town for 30 years, setting the Midwestern standard for hosting sports tournaments. One of the newest venues in the Rockford area is the state-of-the-art UW Health Sports Factory, which opened in June 2016 with 105,000 square feet of space. The riverfront facility can be set up with eight regulation-size hardwood basketball courts and also offers five meeting rooms, a full, onsite restaurant, concessions, and seating for up to 3,700 people with portable bleachers, all with easy, walking-distance access to downtown Rockford.

“In addition to UW Health Sports Factory, our school district over the last few years added three new fieldhouses, bringing the total to 10 high school venues,” says Nick Povalitis of Go Rockford, “so we have a pretty healthy inventory and it continues to grow.”

Rockford has been the site of two recent Illinois State Basketball Championships. In the first year, this past March, more than 100 teams participated, using a total of 12 courts. For 2019, about 120 teams are expected.

The Sports Factory in June hosted the AAU sixth-grade girls’ national championships, with 62 teams from around the country competing over five days. “It was the first time we’ve hosted an AAU national basketball championship in the state of Illinois,” Povalitis says.

Photo courtesy of Angel of the Winds Arena
Snohomish County, Washington
Among the venues available for basketball tournaments and events in Snohomish County, Washington, is the Walt Price Fitness Center at Everett Community College. The main gym can convert to two NCAA-size courts, with seating for 2,200, along with a training room, locker rooms, officials’ room and two team meeting rooms. A multi-purpose room upstairs is great for hospitality, and the upper running track looks down on the court area and is an ideal location to film and livestream games.

Since 2016, the facility has hosted the Northwest Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball championships and will continue to host the event at least through 2021. “The format is similar to the NCAA’s, with one weekend devoted to ‘sweet 16’ and ‘elite eight’ games, and the following weekend the ‘final four’ and championship games,” says Tammy Dunn, the sports development director for the Snohomish County Sports Commission.

Another venue is the Angel of the Winds Arena, in downtown Everett, which every year hosts the Harlem Globetrotters. For 2019, the Seattle Storm of the WNBA will play some of its home games at Angel of the Winds Arena, as their home venue is renovated. “It’s exciting to showcase our arena with these high-quality events,” Dunn adds.

The Washington Tournament Association hosts a number of youth basketball tournaments in the county, using high schools in the area, most of which have three basketball courts for boys and girls in grades four through 12. “Last year, we had 187 teams at one event,” Dunn says.

Photo courtesy of Wicomico County Recreation, Parks, Tourism & Civic Center
Wicomico County, Maryland
“Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland loves basketball — from watching the Governor’s Challenge or the Harlem Globetrotters at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, to local recreation leagues and pick-up games at our local parks, the community enjoys and supports all varieties of hoops,” says Andrew Kurtz, the Wicomico County sports marketing representative. “Between our premier facilities and our proximity to the beach, Wicomico County is an ideal destination for players, coaches and families.”

For basketball tournaments and events, the Youth & Civic Center offers a 30,000-square-foot arena with seating for more than 5,000 fans, depending on the configuration. The venue also offers a 10,000-square-foot secondary arena, 10 meeting rooms, locker rooms, a promoters’ lounge, concessions, free parking and more.

Two colleges also offer facilities suitable for basketball events. The University of Maryland–Eastern Shore has the Willam P. Hytche Athletic Center (which can seat 5,500 spectators) was recently renovated, including completely redone locker-room facilities for men’s and women’s basketball. Salisbury University also offers a main gym with 2,300 seats, press box, sound system and electronic scoreboard. Other facilities available include James M. Bennett High School and Wicomico High School.

Among the larger tournaments using multiple venues, including the Civic Center, is the Governor’s Challenge, now in its 38th year. The event, held between Christmas and New Year’s, brings 120 teams from 12 states and Canada and is the largest holiday basketball event in the country. “We have top talent from across the country coming to town,” says Tournament Director James Simmons. “The event is recognized nationwide.” (It was also recognized as one of SDM’s Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism.)

Photo courtesy of Wildwoods Convention Center
Wildwoods, New Jersey
In 1998, leaders in the Wildwoods community wanted to create a scholarship fund for high school students, so they started the Boardwalk Basketball Classic. Since then, the event has turned into the largest co-ed high school basketball tournament in the country — in 2017 attracting more than 100 high schools from New Jersey and surrounding states and being played over the course of six days.

The nonprofit event is held on seven courts at the beautiful Wildwoods Convention Center between Christmas and New Year’s each year and draws coaches from all three college divisions. “Many of the players here in Wildwoods go on to play on college teams,” says John Lynch, the director of sales for Wildwoods Convention Center.

The Convention Center also holds co-ed AAU basketball events in June, and it also is pressed into service for New Jersey Special Olympics basketball competition in the spring. The Special Olympics events also use six other venues in the community, including three recreation centers and two high school basketball courts.

“We’re also a kind of home for the Harlem Globetrotters,” notes Lynch. “They come here in July for four nights at the Convention Center — and in my 19 years of working with the Globetrotters, they’ve never lost a game at Wildwoods!”

Wildwoods is a five-mile-long island off the southern tip of New Jersey, well-known as a tourist destination, with plenty of hotels and restaurants. The Convention Center is literally on the beach. “That’s what makes us unique, and helps to attract people and events to this area,” Lynch says. SDM

Aurora, Illinois:
Ready to Host Hoops

Supreme Courts in Aurora, Illinois, is home to four high school courts with premium wood floors, and features 24 collegiate grade ceiling mounted baskets, large wall and ceiling mount scoreboards on each court and professional score tables. The flooring is used in 90 percent of NBA courts and top universities like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Indiana.

M14 Hoops Basketball Academy houses 39,200 square feet of basketball heaven, with four high school regulation-size wood courts, 4,500 square foot weight room and concessions.

Vaughan Athletic Center offers 225,000 square feet of athletic space that includes four basketball courts, concessions, a 13,000-square-foot leisure pool, locker rooms and fitness center.

Named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the great high school gymnasiums in Illinois, Kivisto Gymnasium at East Aurora High School is one of the largest in the Fox Valley and has been the site of many sectional and supersectional playoff games.
Want to know more? Contact Pete Garlock at

Hershey Harrisburg:
Home Court for Top Tournaments

Basketball has a home in the Hershey Harrisburg Region. The hardwood at the Giant CenterSM in Hershey hosts the likes of the Globetrotters, Pennsylvania’s top high school teams (for the PIAA State Championships) and more.

At the PA Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, US Junior Nationals (USJN) has been running its Hershey National Showcase for 17 years. When the 18th annual USJN event tips off in June 2019, organizers expect a fourth-straight sell-out of more than 200 youth teams. Twenty SnapSport basketball courts can fit in one hall at the Farm Show Complex, and courts can be added in other areas of the facility as well.

Fun Fact: NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain’s historic 100-point game was played at Hersheypark® Arena.
Contact Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority Business Development Manager Dean Polk for more information about basketball events in Hershey and Harrisburg. or 717-231-2989.

Court Sports and More

With 28 new volleyball and badminton courts, 18 basketball courts and 11 futsal courts, the Hawai‘i Convention Center is the perfect venue for sports tournaments of any size.

It’s all in a convenient location near gorgeous Waikiki that offers fun for the whole family, whether it’s time to compete, relax or anything in between.

To learn more about what the Hawai‘i Convention Center can offer for your next sports tournament or event, e-mail

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