The Terrace Basketball Association wanted see the city join other Northwest communities when it comes to hosting major basketball tournaments, so they began planning one of their own.
Four years ago, organizers laid the foundation for what they hope will become the city’s first annual River Boat Days Open Basketball Tournament. Eighty-four teams from B.C. and as far away as Sask. could be travelling into Terrace to compete in across six divisions between August 5-10.
Organizer and association president Keith Azak says the tournament could rebound the city’s reputation as a host for major sporting events.
“The challenge is getting the notion out there that we can host the tournament because it’s so new. [People] didn’t realize Terrace was big enough,” Azak says. “Once they can get that mindset and know that this tournament exists and it will for years, it’s going to be a big one.”
Forty teams have been confirmed so far, including a team from Regina, Sask., Gitwinksihlkw, the Nass Rebels, Gitmidiik and Terrace Titans.
The intermediate and senior divisions will play at the Sportsplex, the U18 boys and girls divisions, masters, and women’s divisions will be hosted at the Thornhill Elementary, Caledonia Secondary and Skeena Middle schools. All divisions will then play in the Sportsplex from the quarterfinals on.
He estimates a minimum of 500 active players, not including their families, could be coming into Terrace for the tournament, potentially bringing millions of dollars in revenue for the city.
“The [Prince Rupert] All-Native Basketball Tournament (ANBT) generates around $3.5 million with 50 teams, and I’m already at 40. If I get to 84, it’s almost double,” he says.
Approximately $22,500 of the $30,000 tournament has been raised so far. with applications to sponsors including Tsetsaut Ventures Ltd., Rio Tinto, and LNG Canada. Organizers also joined with the Kermode Friendship Society to function as a team.
“People wanted to see a new tournament, not just for a long weekend, but something huge,” Azak says. “I wanted to try and do something spectacular.”
But where will all these people stay? Athletes competing in other regional basketball tournaments and their families often rely on accommodating hosts as hotel rooms are in high demand — usually, visitors need to book a year in advance for the Prince Rupert ANBT.
Azak says with three hotels in Terrace and the potential for the Sunshine Inn to open before the summer, there will be accommodation available, though it may not be as needed for local teams.
“This is going to be another perfect reason why Terrace is a good area to host. Kitimat, Gitxsan, Nisga’a Nation — they’re all going to be able to travel home,” he says, mentioning most of the teams that have committed so far are from Northwest communities. Azak also believes there will be more vacancies available with the tournament bringing up the tail-end of River Boat Days.
The real game-changer was when organizers secured the purchase of a portable NBA-regulated court used in Prince Rupert’s All-Native Basketball Tournament.
The hardwood basketball court was put up for sale as Prince Rupert’s ANBT committee pursued a new floor for their tournament. The court can be put together and taken apart like a puzzle overtop an arena surface, and is originally worth around $200,000. At first, Azak says the Prince Rupert committee tried to donate it to local First Nations communities, but all of them already had high-quality facilities available.
Through an agreement with ANBT Prince Rupert organizers, Terrace’s committee negotiated the price down to $10,000.
The court is being used this week in the Junior All-Native tournament in Kitimat, but would primarily belong to Terrace to host large-scale events like this in the future.
On Monday, council agreed to waive $3,386 — 30 per cent — of the $12,287 Sportsplex rental fees for the tournament. The city says this amount is similar to other amounts given to tournaments in the past, and had only $9,000 remaining in council unbudgeted.
The committee is still looking for a heated storage facility to keep the court in the meantime. Azak says all of the facilities in town were booked almost immediately after LNG Canada made their final investment decision for their project in Kitimat.
Overall, Azak says he’s excited to see the years of hard work pay off.
“If it works out, we’ll have 84 teams running around the city for one week,” he says. “We’re very excited to show Terrace that this is going to be a great time during River Boat Days.”
*CORRECTION* – An earlier version of this article said the committee would operate as a branch under the Nisga’a Lisims government. Instead, the committee is working in partnership with the Kermode Friendship Centre.