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Hoopfest crowds won’t contend with buzz of Mosquitoes

Twenty days before tens of thousands of basketball players and fans take over downtown, Spokane Hoopfest 2013 organizers say businesses have struck a harmonious accord to unplug “Mosquitoes” – devices that emit a high-pitched whine to deter loitering by teens and young people.

Property managers for three buildings that have devices right next to where courts will be say they’ve decided to turn them off during the June 29-30 outdoor three-on-three basketball tournament.

“This has been on our radar, but we hadn’t had a chance yet to discuss it with the property managers downtown,” said Rick Steltenpohl, executive director of Hoopfest.

The devices are affixed to the walls on a number of downtown office buildings, having popped up in the past year as property managers try to discourage smokers or loiterers forming groups on sidewalks. The Mosquito tones are designed to be audible only to people 30 years old or younger.

Steltenpohl said the decision to turn the devices off doesn’t surprise him or other Hoopfest organizers. “We’ve had tremendous relations with the downtown community. Their cooperation and voluntary assistance really fits the spirit of the event,” he said, adding, “we really appreciate their doing that.”

The Mosquito devices are small electric-powered boxes that emit an annoying tone at 12,000 hertz or higher. The manufacturer in the United Kingdom sells units through a Vancouver, B.C., distributor.

Downtown buildings with the devices include the Peyton, on Post Street between Riverside and Sprague avenues; the Washington Trust Bank Building, on Sprague Avenue between Post and Wall streets; and the Sterling Bank building, near the corner of Riverside Avenue and Wall Street.

Keith Erhart, facilities manager for the Washington Trust Bank building, said he regularly turns off the building’s Mosquito when large events occur downtown.

That device, unlike those on the Peyton and Sterling Bank buildings, has been in operation for more than one year, Erhart said. It was added specifically for discouraging loitering, he said.

“We have been turning it off also during Lilac Parade weekend,” he added, noting also that the bank doesn’t leave the device turned on all the time anyway.

Another change for the event is a decision by the managers of the Banner Bank building to turn off opera tunes piped to a corner at the intersection of Riverside and Post.

The music has helped discourage loitering in front of the bank, said property manager Alicia Barbieri, of Goodale & Barbieri Co.

The bank music system will play more upbeat music during Hoopfest, she said.

This year’s Hoopfest has closed team registration at 7,000 teams, Steltenpohl said. However, as brackets are filled and unbalanced groupings are identified, more teams may be added, he said.

Last year Hoopfest had a total of 7,090 teams, he said.