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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Most of region’s 3-on-3 tournaments canceled, but Hoopfest hopeful

UPDATED: Sat., July 11, 2020

The streets of downtown Spokane are converted into basketball courts during Hoopfest 2019, last  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The streets of downtown Spokane are converted into basketball courts during Hoopfest 2019, last (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Inland Northwest is a hotbed of annual 3-on-3 tournaments, a trend since the inception of the world’s biggest outdoor basketball gathering: Hoopfest.

From Walla Walla to Polson, Montana and Boise to Bonners Ferry, dozens have emulated Hoopfest’s 31-year model, bringing foot traffic and an economic boost to their respective communities.

Hoopfest, which was postponed to August 22-23, is in limbo due to the recent uptick of coronavirus cases in Spokane County, which remains in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan that only allows small public gatherings.

The event annually brings in 250,000 people and 6,000 teams, but cut registration to 50 % this year in an effort to limit the amount of bodies in downtown Spokane amid a pandemic.

“Wear your mask if you want to see Hoopfest in August,” Hoopfest director Matt Santangelo said earlier this month.

If Hoopfest is ultimately canceled, it would result in an economic loss of several million dollars for the Inland Northwest. The event brought in an estimated $47 million each year from 1990-2019.

“We’re trending in the wrong way to flatten the curve,” Santangelo said.

Small towns are feeling the losses of their canceled 2020 tournaments.

The Reardan Mule Days’ 3-on-3 tournament would have entered its 23rd year, and both the Kettle Falls Slam Jam and Medical Lake Pick and Roll would have entered their 22nd year.

Harvest Hoops in Rockford – played at the end of September during Southeast Spokane County Fair – also canceled its 28th annual tournament.

Bigger 3-on-3 tournaments in Eastern Washington include the Walla Walla Peach Classic, which canceled its 27th tournament. The Peach Classic attracts roughly 250 teams a year.

Two years after the inception of Hoopfest in 1990, a tournament started in Western Montana – the Flathead Lake 3 on 3 – that’s now the longest-running 3-on-3 tournament in the state and brings in hundreds of teams in July. It also canceled.

Some tournaments in Idaho are holding out hope, though.

Rathdrum’s 22nd annual Main Street Hoops – a tournament of roughly three-dozen teams a year – is still slated for Aug. 1

Idaho’s largest 3-on-3 tournament – the 13th annual Bam Jam in downtown Boise – is also moving forward forward with its August 8-9 event.

The Bonners Ferry Swish 3-on-3 Tournament is annually played during Kootenai River Days in July, but the Bonners Chamber of Commerce announced last week that Kootenai Rivers Days was canceled.

North Idaho’s largest 3-on-3 tournament – the 24th annual Silver Hoops in Kellogg – canceled its 100-plus team tournament last week.

Its organizers tried.

Silver Valley Chamber president Tara Lodi said the tournament worked with city officials to try and institute guidelines and social distancing mandates for the tournament, but the region’s boost in infections threw a wrench in their efforts.

Shoshone County had its first confirmed COVID-19 patient last week, Lodi said, and local businesses were concerned that teams from out of state could potentially spread the virus into Kellogg, a small city of 2,100 residents.

“The committee was set on putting on the event and doing it for the kids, who haven’t had much activity during the pandemic,” Lodi said. “But with the increase in cases – we’re up to six cases now – that can spread rapidly in a small town like ours.”

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