Forward March | Sports Destination Management

Forward March

Basketball Continues to Score Big for Cities
Dec 19, 2021 | By: Peter Francesconi
Gainesville, Fla. | Image Courtesy of Gainesville Sports Commission

Basketball participation  has continued to grow, even through the pandemic. During the 2020 pandemic year, overall participation grew 11.4 percent, to nearly 28 million participants ages six and up, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2021 Sports Topline Participation Report. That major jump follows continued growth of 3.6 percent or more in the five years prior to the pandemic.

Of course, helping to keep the sport growing are excellent basketball facilities around the country, ideal for youth and adult tournaments, events, showcases and camps.

Asheville, North Carolina

“The ‘Madness’ begins here in Asheville, because the Southern Conference Basketball Championships is one of the first conference tournaments that will pick their automatic qualifier to the NCAA [March Madness] Tournament,” says Demp Bradford of the Asheville Sports Commission. This year’s SoCon event, for men and women, will be March 3 to 7 and is the 11th straight time it will be played in Asheville, at Harrah’s Cherokee Center, with sold-out crowds for the semis and final. Harrah’s is one of the main arenas for basketball in the city, seating up to 7,000 fans. 

The Kimmel Arena, which is home to the teams at UNC Asheville, can seat up to 3,200 spectators, and Asheville also has the 1,100-seat Justice Center. In addition, the UNCA campus has four courts in the student recreation center. “We also have eight public high schools with multiple gyms, along with several prominent private high schools, including Christ School, which is famous for the Plumlee brothers (Marshall, Miles and Mason), who played at Duke,” says Bradford. In 2020, the city hosted the relocated Maui Invitational, and in 2021, the inaugural Asheville Championship was played, with Minnesota beating Princeton in the final.

“Explore Asheville CVB works with the rights holder to put together outstanding accommodations, while the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission assists with obtaining facilities, securing volunteers and marketing. Asheville is a destination waiting to make your event happen,” says Bradford.

Chicago Southland

The Chicago Southland area comprises 62 municipalities that are south and southwest of Chicago, about 35 miles from downtown, and it’s an area full of sports venues that can offer convenience and affordability. The area has 40,000 acres of forestry, miles of trails and attractions for the whole family.

For basketball events, “The Southland Center-Ho Chunk Nation in Lynwood offers 10 wood floor courts April to October, and four courts November to May,” says Andy Ritter of the Chicago Southland CVB. The courts include eight high school and two college courts with seating for 900, recently upgraded lighting, concessions (including a sports bar and restaurant), free parking and Wi-Fi.

 Other multi-court facilities, all with free parking, include the Mokena Community Park District’s Oaks Gym North and South Field House, with three varsity courts and seven smaller courts and seating for 600; the MegaPlex Sports Center in Homer Glen, with three regulation and one smaller court, seating for 800 and a restaurant/bar; the six-court Matteson Community Center; and the Roma Sports Club in Frankfort, with two courts, concessions and lounge area with monitors to watch the on-court action.

The area has attracted a number of large events in recent years, including four U.S. Junior National Basketball Tournaments (the largest with 100 teams); the North American Chinese Basketball Association, with 800 players; the National Gay Basketball Association’s 2021 Fall National, with 350 players; and National Wheelchair Basketball Association events. 

Fayetteville, North Carolina

“Basketball is huge in the Fayetteville area,” says Amy Karpinski, director of sports marketing for the Fayetteville Area CVB. “[We] have firsthand experience on what challenges tournament directors and organizers face. As a result, our CVB is dedicated to assist the planner in transitioning an event from the conceptual stages to event implementation.” 

For basketball events, the Freedom Courts Sportsplex offers four collegiate-sized courts, seating for 750, concessions, weight/training room, locker rooms and free parking. The new Robinson Courts consists of five collegiate-sized basketball courts, weight room, meeting rooms, kitchen, locker rooms and more. There are also eight park and recreation basketball court facilities around the Fayetteville area, including a collegiate-size court with stadium seating for 250. Methodist College has a court with seating for 500, and Fayetteville State University has a court to accommodate 750 fans. 

“The FACVB has developed a close partnership with AAU basketball, which brings in hundreds of teams and several tournaments each year,” Karpinski says. Among upcoming events are the AAU President’s Day Classic, with 80 teams and 750 spectators expected; the AAU Spring Showcase, with 140 teams over two weekends and 2,000 spectators; and the AAU Memorial Day Classic, with 80 teams and 1,000 fans.

Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville in Alachua County is in north central Florida, in close proximity to surrounding states, and an easy destination to reach for basketball tournaments and events. “Home to the University of Florida Gators, the community offers that college-town charm and excitement, making your participants feel like champions,” says Joleen Cacciatore, executive director of the Gainesville Sports Commission.

The 292,000-square-foot Stephen C. O’Connell Center is home to the Gator men’s and women’s basketball teams and offers 20,000 square feet of open space and seating for 10,500 in the main arena. Legacy Park Multipurpose Center is a 40,000-square-foot facility with wood floors and the ability to accommodate four courts, with movable bleachers, breakout rooms and concessions. Opening in 2023 will be the Alachua County Sports Complex at Celebration Pointe, offering 10 permanent basketball courts and 135,000 square feet of overall indoor space.

Gainesville recently hosted the US Amateur Basketball National Championships, with 70 teams, and continues to host the Sunshine State Basketball event and AAU Basketball invitationals, each bringing in 50 to 60 teams.

Greensboro, North Carolina

“Greensboro has been the home of the ACC headquarters since its founding in 1953 and has hosted numerous ACC and NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments,” says Brian Ambuehl, national sales manager for Visit Greensboro. “This is the anchor to our rich history of basketball and has developed a sports-minded community that is rabid for the sport at all levels.”

In 2023, Greensboro will play host to a trifecta of major basketball tournaments in consecutive weeks—the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament First and Second Rounds. “This is a huge endeavor and a testament to the ‘basketball specific’ community support and infrastructure that our city possesses,” Ambuehl adds. 

Among the facilities that can accommodate basketball tournaments and events are the Greensboro Sportsplex, a 106,000-square-foot indoor complex with suspended hardwood floors on eight basketball courts, and Proehlific Park, with three indoor basketball courts. The Greensboro Coliseum Complex includes the Arena, Fieldhouse and Special Events Center, which can accommodate eight basketball courts. 

Kansas City, Missouri

“Kansas City boasts a rich basketball history, from its reputation of hosting more Men’s Final Fours than any other city to regular annual tournaments for the Big 12, NAIA and MIAA,” says Becky Harsch of Visit KC. “We’re proud to be the home of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, The College Basketball Experience [home to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame] and several state-of-the-art venues such as the T-Mobile Center and KC Convention Center. Hosting these competitions of all sizes allows us to do what we do best, roll out the red carpet and welcome athletes, fans and officials.”

The massive Kansas City Convention Center has nearly 400,000 square feet of contiguous space; the Municipal Auditorium has seating for nearly 11,000; and the T-Mobile Center has an 18,000-seat arena. All three venues feature concessions, LED scoreboards, meeting rooms and more, and all are within a mile of thousands of hotel rooms. There’s also the Hy-Vee Arena, the nation’s first multi-level sports complex, with 82,000 square feet of space and an onsite restaurant.

Kansas City also is known as the City of Fountains, with more than 200 waterworks sprinkled throughout the metro area. And of course, KC is the “Barbecue Capital of the World,” with more than 115 restaurants dedicated to the cuisine.

Lincoln, Nebraska

“Over the last decade, Lincoln’s basketball presence has increased dramatically,” says Derek Bombeck of the Lincoln CVB. “With the additions of Pinnacle Bank Arena and now the Kinetic Sports Complex and Speedway Village, we can host high-end youth competitions or professional and NCAA-level events.

“It’s our goal to make each event feel at home while they are in Lincoln,” he adds. “Why get lost as ‘just another event’ in a large city when you can come to Lincoln and be ‘The Event.’”

The Pinnacle Bank Arena can accommodate 16,000 spectators, while the Bob Devaney Sports Center offers an 8,000-seat arena. The Kinetic Sports Complex and Speedway Village both offer eight basketball courts and portable bleachers throughout the venues. Some of the larger events Lincoln has hosted in recent years include NBA Preseason play; the 2021 Recruit Look Hoops event, with more than 100 youth teams participating; the NSAA Boys & Girls Basketball Championships; and the Mid-America Home School Classic, with more than 100 youth teams. Lincoln also plays host to many Supreme Court Basketball Club events, which often bring more than 100 teams per event to town.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The main indoor facility for youth basketball events in Myrtle Beach is the John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center, a 100,000-square-foot building opened in 2015 that can accommodate up to eight basketball courts on a wood floor. The facility has flexible seating for 2,500 and offers several meeting rooms. Additional facilities along the Grand Strand include the J. Bryan Floyd Community Center in North Myrtle Beach with two basketball courts, and various high school and recreation center gyms.

“For collegiate events, we’ve partnered with Coastal Carolina University and the HTC Center,” says Jonathan Paris, executive director of Sports Tourism for Visit Myrtle Beach. “Home to the Men’s and Women’s Chanticleer basketball teams, the HTC Center has seating for 3,400, six locker rooms, hospitality areas and video boards.”

In addition, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center annually hosts the Beach Ball Classic high school basketball tournament. Held on wood flooring, the facility can bring in seating for up to 5,000.

“Youth basketball is one of our strongest sports tourism segments,” Paris says. 

Placer Valley, California

The newest gem in Placer Valley is the Roebbelen Center, which can accommodate 12 hardwood basketball courts in 108,000-square-feet of contiguous, unobstructed floor space. (The basketball goals and scoreboards store up in the ceiling and can be lowered automatically.) 

The floor space is divisible with mesh curtains, and the Roebbelen Center also features a 10,300-square foot lobby with 13 TV monitors, and flexible meeting space with up to eight rooms. Other amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, scoreboards and game clocks, a state-of-the-art air filtration system, configurable and telescopic bleachers, concessions and vending, and more. The center also is 25 miles from Sacramento International Airport, and close to local hotels and amenities.

“Basketball has always been one of the many prevalent sports in Placer Valley,” says Donna Dotti of Placer Valley Tourism. “Our opportunities to elevate the level of play and event types have skyrocketed, thanks to the addition of the 12 hardwood courts at the state-of-the-art Roebbelen Center.” 

In 2022 the Roebbelen Center will become the host site of multiple branded basketball events presented by prominent organizers, such as 3Step Sports, Select Events, Premiere Basketball, Hoop Source, Made Hoops and End of Trail.

Other Placer Valley basketball venues include the Hardwood Palace, with eight hardwood basketball courts, and five hardwood courts at the Courtside Basketball Center. Both venues also offer game clocks and scoreboards, concessions, tip-and-roll bleachers and more.  SDM


About the Author