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‘Taking copious notes’: Hoopfest’s new director reflects on the first event back

June 28, 2022 Updated Tue., June 28, 2022 at 9:13 p.m.

Team It’s Showtime’s Lorenzo Hewitt, 9, on left with ball, drives to the basket as team HFK Heat’s Ty Crispo, 9, defends during their game on Stevens Street.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN)
Team It’s Showtime’s Lorenzo Hewitt, 9, on left with ball, drives to the basket as team HFK Heat’s Ty Crispo, 9, defends during their game on Stevens Street. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN)
By Julien A. Luebbers The Spokesman-Review

After two years without Hoopfest, the bar for 2022 was set relatively low.

“As long as we had Hoopfest this year, as long as there were teams playing on June 25th and June 26th, it was going to be a success,” said Executive Director Riley Stockton, who took charge of the event just this year.

Though the turnout wasn’t as high as pre-pandemic Hoopfests – the competition drew 3,500 teams, where in the past it saw about 6,000 – Stockton said the streets didn’t feel any less full, and that “it felt like a community event.”

He is also confident that enrollment will improve in the coming years, as the event re-establishes itself after pandemic cancellations.

One name was notably missing from the streets and courts over the weekend. Nike, formerly a major sponsor for Hoopfest, was not involved in sponsoring the 2022 event.

“They just had different priorities for the future, which is totally fine,” Stockton said.

In spite of that loss, Stockton said that “it was one of our best sponsorship years, ever.”

Toyota, Amazon, MultiCare, and Swire Coca-Cola were among the major sponsors, but they were accompanied by a lengthy list of local, regional, and national organizations, from The Davenport Hotel to UW. The court sponsors contained many smaller local businesses and companies.

When asked about filling Nike’s shoes, Stockton said “we’ve been talking to people, trying to see who fits in with the Hoopfest culture.”

Hoopfest is a nonprofit organization and only employs five staff members. In order to manage the 3,500 teams across downtown, Hoopfest trained over 1,500 volunteers to manage courts, registration and more.

According to Stockton, most of the volunteers come from the Spokane area, but there are some who make the journey every year from out of town. About half of the volunteers each year are returners, according to Chad Smith, director of volunteers and staffing.

“They really are the glue that holds us together,” Smith said. “Not to sound cliche, but we’re so fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers, veterans and rookies alike.”

Smith applauded Stockton’s work in his first year as executive director. “It’s never easy taking over an organization like this, much less when you had a two-year hiatus because of a pandemic,” he said. “We knew he’d be a great fit.”

With one Hoopfest under his belt, Stockton is keen to tighten the screws and make all improvements necessary. He is “trying to make sure that we are taking copious notes at every level. I am a big believer that, although Hoopfest was a success, there are a ton of things we can improve on.”

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