AAU youth basketball coaches weren’t the only ones going to their benches during the 16th annual Best of the West tournament.
With an estimated influx of 4,000 people in Hermiston over the weekend, area businesses changed their regular game plans to help accommodate lodging and meal options for teams.
“When we have these teams coming in, we will bring in some extra housekeepers,” said Ryan Lynch, general manager of Comfort Inn & Suites. “We give them a pretty good rate and we’ll change our breakfast hours if they have morning games.”
Hermiston High School athletic director Larry Usher, who helps coordinate the event with the Hermiston Youth Basketball Club, said the Jan. 26-27 tournament featured 119 teams. In addition to duffle bags and basketball shoes, people coming to town open their wallets, he said.
Although a specific economic impact study hasn’t been conducted on the Hermiston Youth Basketball Club tournaments, Usher said similar cities have estimated an average of $100 is spent per person.
“I think that’s a very conservative number,” Usher said. “With at least one night in a hotel, 5-7 meals, a tank of gas and snacks — that adds up in a hurry.”
Usher said in addition to local teams, people travel from the Tri-Cities, Seattle, Portland, Yakima, Seattle, Spokane and Idaho, including 20 teams from the Boise area. The infrastructure, including adequate hotel space and restaurants, is important to the success of the tournament, Usher said. Although they haven’t outgrown available hotel space, he said locals do feel the impact during tournament weekends.
“I think the word is out when it’s tournament weekend, don’t go out to lunch or dinner,” Usher said. “It will be hard to find a table.”
While some teams were left scrambling to find a restaurant to accommodate a large group for a Saturday night team dinner, others planned ahead. Shortly after lunch, the Southeast Boise team placed an order for more than a dozen pizzas from Ye Olde Pizza Shoppe, said Nicole Roldan.
“The pizza place was really busy but because we called so early, we didn’t have to wait,” she said.
Members of the Idaho Elite teams were scattered at several different hotels, said Blaine and Dusty Moriarty. The Boise couple and their two sons, Parker, 11, and Cooper, 8, booked a room about a month ago at Oxford Suites.
While Cooper gave it a “thumbs up” for the swimming pool, Dusty was impressed with the hotel scheduling extra help to assist with the complimentary breakfast.
“The tournament people do a good job of letting the town know,” Blaine said. “The town appeared ready for all the teams.”
Kelly Schwirse, who’s in charge of marketing and communications with the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce, forwarded an email to its membership that the weekend tournament was the biggest yet. The Hermiston Youth Basketball Club hosts four, with the final one — For the Love of the Game — scheduled for Feb. 9-10.
The Moriartys said the weekend would likely cost their family about $500-$600 — including lodging, meals, gas and snacks. Roldan, whose daughter plays on the Southeast Boise team, estimated her weekend costs at around $500.
In October, Robin Evans, the Southeast Boise coach, reserved rooms for the team at the Holiday Inn Express. Selling points, she said, included a complimentary breakfast and swimming pool.
“Also, it’s centrally located with the games and restaurants,” she said.
Roldan said they heard about the Hermiston tournament from other Boise-area teams. In addition to a shorter driving distance than going to Portland, she said the gymnasiums were more conveniently located.
“The schools and their facilities are amazing,” Blaine Moriarty added.
Also, Usher said little things like having food vendors outside a couple of the schools and onsite custom printing of tournament gear are added touches that people like.
Anna Francis of AJ’s Printed Apparel had stations set up at the high school and Armand Larive Middle School. In addition to T-shirts, sweatshirts and dri-fit long-sleeved shirts with tournament logos, people could have their names and uniform numbers added.
Francis, who launched her business in 1996, gives a percentage of her sales to the Hermiston Youth Basketball Club.
Also, Usher said she prints up special shirts for the winning team and the second place team. The tournament logo gear, Usher said, is a great way to promote and market the event.
“The tournament is a great opportunity for our community,” Francis said. “It’s great to see that many people in town. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it.”