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News >  Spokane

Hoopfest canceled due to spread of COVID-19, organizers say

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 26, 2021

The streets of downtown Spokane are converted into basketball courts during Hoopfest 2019 in Spokane.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
The streets of downtown Spokane are converted into basketball courts during Hoopfest 2019 in Spokane. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

The continued prevalence of the coronavirus claimed another summertime event in Spokane on Wednesday, as organizers announced the cancellation of Hoopfest 2021.

The 3-on-3 basketball tournament had been scheduled for Sept. 11-12. In a letter posted to Hoopfest’s website on Wednesday afternoon, organizers said the increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus led to cancellation of the event for the second straight year. The cancellation was made in consultation with the Spokane Regional Health District and regional health care providers.

“This decision has been excruciatingly difficult, especially because the circumstances have significantly worsened in just the past 48 hours,” the letter reads.

Hoopfest had been planning for a tournament with about 3,200 teams, roughly half the size of a traditional competition, Executive Director Matt Santangelo said Wednesday. Those teams may now request a partial, 20% refund, or donate their entry fee to the nonprofit in charge of running the competition.

Organizers had announced the 20% refund earlier this month, made necessary because some costs had already been incurred to hold the event in September. The Hoopfest nonprofit reported $1.1 million less in revenues in 2020 compared to the previous year after not holding a tournament because of the pandemic.

Team captains will receive an email soon with the choice of donating their fee or requesting a refund, Santangelo said. Refunds will be processed by the end of September.

MultiCare Rockwood Clinic, a Hoopfest sponsor, applauded the move in a statement.

“As the Inland Northwest community continues to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 delta variant cases and the region’s hospitals experience record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations, MultiCare agrees with our partners at the Spokane Regional Health District and Hoopfest that it is in the best interest of our community, potential visitors and all MultiCare staff to cancel the Hoopfest basketball tournament for 2021,” said Alex Jackson, president and chief operations officer of MultiCare Rockwood Clinic, in a statement.

Dr. Francisco Velazquez, the interim health officer of the Spokane Regional Health District, commended Hoopfest for trying to pull an event off even as cases continued to rise.

“Matt and his team have worked diligently for months to make Hoopfest as safe as possible, and it is unfortunate that the exponential spread of the virus and its Delta variant has caused the event to be canceled,” Velázquez said in a statement.

Each team member will receive a T-shirt and each team a Hoopfest branded basketball, regardless of whether they ask for a refund.

Organizers had made the decision not to require participants to receive vaccination against COVID-19.

The cancellation of Hoopfest follows the decision to cancel Pig Out in the Park earlier this month. Hoopfest had originally been moved to the September weekend from its usual date in June. That weekend, temperatures climbed above 100 degrees in an unusual bout of early summer heat that turned deadly.

Kate Hudson, public relations manager for the nonprofit community booster group Visit Spokane, said it was fair to estimate the financial loss to the community from the event’s cancellation “in the millions.”

“I think what’s kind of a gut punch is that we thought we were kind of in the clear,” Hudson said. “We had this movement in a positive direction. To have this setback, it’s tough.”

She said hotels, restaurants and other businesses were looking forward to “a sense of normalcy” with the return of Pig Out and Hoopfest, after the second straight cancelation of an in-person Bloomsday in May.

The Spokane County Interstate Fair is still scheduled to take place Sept. 10-19 as of Wednesday, said Jessica McLaughlin, fair coordinator.

The 2022 edition of Hoopfest is scheduled to take place June 25-26.

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