Sam Swinford, founder and director of event operations for AthElite Sports Management of Marion, Illinois, stood Saturday morning at the Owensboro Convention Center, watching four basketball games at the same time.
His AthElite Memorial Day Challenge, the first basketball tournament on the center’s new sports field, was more successful than he expected.
“It’s going well,” Swinford said. “We sold.”
He was hoping for 45 teams.
Instead, AthElite has registered 65 teams from eight states.
They came from as far away as Wichita, Kansas, and Cleveland, Ohio.
“There’s a lot of interest,” Swinford said. “We didn’t know what to expect. Most teams are used to playing on wood, but it’s a nice surface.
The convention center has 36,000 square feet of concrete gray tile, made from an industrial plastic compound, which covers the concrete floor for sporting events.
Last year, the city, county and Owensboro Health invested $600,000 for the makeover to make showrooms more accessible for indoor sports.
Swinford said 120 games are scheduled for Saturday and today.
He said he plans to bring the tournament back next year and make it an annual Memorial Day weekend event.
Evansville Blackhearts coach Josh Patton was talking with his team in a corner of the exhibit halls.
“It’s going pretty well,” he said. “It’s well organized. There is good competition.
Patton said: “Some players couldn’t dribble on that floor, but they’re learning. It’s good for them. »
He said: “We want to play the best of the best. That’s how we improve. And there are a lot of good teams here.
Patton said: “If the tournament is back next year, we will be back 100%. It’s good that it’s a short drive.
Teams came from Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas and Arkansas.
Chris Gendek, director of destination development and sports management for the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said earlier that it could be the biggest basketball tournament ever. held in Owensboro.
Gendek said the average team has 10 players, which means at least 650 players – boys and girls – between the third year and 17 years old.
Many will be accompanied by their parents, he said, making a large number of people in town for Memorial Day weekend.
Gendek said, “We’re starting to see a real momentum building with indoor sports and the impact of these tournaments on our community. The future looks bright and we are continually building on the early successes we have already created. »
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, [email protected]