SPOKANE, Wash. — Hoopfest, the world's largest three-on-three basketball tournament, is canceling its 2021 event in Spokane following conversations with local and state leaders as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge throughout the Inland Northwest.
This comes after the organizers of Pig Out in the Park canceled its 2021 event due to COVID-19. It was scheduled for Sept. 1-6.
In a press release, Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo called the decision "excruciatingly difficult," adding that it was made after numerous talks with Washington Governor Jay Inslee's office, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and MultiCare Health System.
"Our priority has always been the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community. It is with that in mind that we are following the guidance of the authorities to cancel the event scheduled for next month," Santangelo wrote.
In an interview on KREM 2 News, Santagelo expanded on how canceling the event was not easy for him.
"It hurts my heart," said Santangelo, who added that the decision to cancel the event didn't happen until this morning. "My heart is hurt is how I feel. You feel like you let so many people down. Hoopfest is such a gem for the region from basketball playing, from the connection and love from the volunteers, from the support of sponsors, and ultimately the economic impact to the region. It has such a great and fear reaching impact. At the end of the day, you know you’re doing the right thing but it doesn’t make the decision any easier. It is hard and my heart is really heavy at the moment."
Alex Jackson, President/COO of the MultiCare Rockwood Clinic, said in a statement that MultiCare agrees with partners at SRHD and Hoopfest that it is "in the best interest of our community, potential visitors and MultiCare staff" to cancel the tournament. This comes as hospitals throughout the Inland Northwest are reporting record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations, including Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene.
“MultiCare is proud to partner with Hoopfest as the official medical provider and were excited to bring back such a valuable and unifying event for the INW. However, the latest surge of the Delta variant has our health care facilities overwhelmed. Bringing together thousands of people poses a risk and would be detrimental to our efforts in caring for our community," Jackson said.
Hoopfest was scheduled for Sept. 11-12, 2021. The event typically brings in around 24,000 players from across the United States and globe every year. Forty-five city blocks of Spokane are shut down during the tournament to create 422 courts.
In a statement, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said the decision to cancel Hoopfest is "incredibly tough and agonizing."
"We are disappointed for the athletes, volunteers, organization, and community that the pandemic has disrupted another community institution. However, today’s action is another example of an effort that explored and exhausted all possibilities to take extremely thoughtful and informed action based on the best available public health information," Woodward wrote in the statement. "Spokane is resilient and will wrap itself around Hoopfest as it rallies and begins planning for an even better return."
Registered teams can donate fees or request partial refund
Registered teams have a choice between donating their registration fees or requesting a partial 20% refund, Santangelo said. Hoopfest is offering a partial refund because the event was planned for September and leaders had incurred many of the expenses necessary to execute it.
A separate email will be sent to team captains to determine donation or refund status and requested refunds will be processed by Sept. 30, Santangelo added.
"As a small nonprofit, the past 16 months have been very challenging financially, and with your understanding and support we will survive this setback and be ready for Hoopfest 2022," he said.
"It still puts us on shaky ground as a small business that did not have our primary business activity available to us for two years. That really is the reason behind the refund policy. Not only have we not had the ability to have our own event, but also the amount of the expense that we’ve incurred in planning for Hoopfest 2021 in two weeks," said Santangelo.
All registered teams, regardless of refund request, will receive Hoopfest 2021 Official Player Shirts. Team captains will also receive a Hoopfest basketball. Hoopfest will also look for other opportunities to celebrate the spirit of the event in the fall and winter of 2021, Santangelo said.