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Hoopfest director explains how virtual event will work

For the first time in 31 years, Hoopfest will not be played on the streets of Spokane amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Hoopfest officially announced on Monday that the event is canceled in its original format for 2020.

The event originally was moved back from the last weekend in June to the weekend of August 22 back in April, but now the event says it will take a break in its typical format after receiving guidance from the Spokane Regional Health District. 

Hoopfest is moving to a virtual event that will be comprised of "challenges, drills and contests to your front door that everyone can enjoy," according to the registration website

Participants will use an app called "Hoopfest Homecourt" that Hoopfest Director Matt Santangelo says will bring Hoopfest to "homes all around the country, all the places that Hoopfest people come to Spokane from." 

Santangelo says he hopes the app is a fun way for people to participate uniquely this year. 

To participate in the virtual event, teams will take part in challenges pushed out via the app over Hoopfest weekend, August 20-23. Hoopfest partnered with the NBA and the WNBA to have professional athletes help participants push through challenges. The app also tracks shooting and ball handling, according to Santangelo. 

Everyone who completes the challenges by the end of the weekend will be a Hoopfest champion, and will receive an official player shirt. Santangelo acknowledged that this year's event will be more participatory than competitive, but he said he hopes the app can "sprinkle a little bit of Hoopfest magic" throughout the community. 

Santangelo also stressed that this year's virtual event will be important for the tournament to keep running, so they can hold Hoopfest in person again in 2021. 

Those who have already registered can donate their registration cost to the organization and still receive their official player shirt, transfer their registration to the virtual event, or receive a refund. 

The virtual event is $35 for youth and $40 for adults, and includes a player T-shirt for each participant. If you complete the virtual event, which will take place during the week of August 20th through the 23rd, then you will receive a coveted Hoopfest champion t-shirt. Santangelo says people who complete the virtual event will receive these shirts due to them championing his organization.

"The rising number of COVID-19 cases has made Hoopfest 2020 unplayable for the first time in its storied 31-year history. We are disappointed and understand if you are too," said Santangelo in an open letter on Hoopfest's website.

One of the important marks for Hoopfest to happen was for Spokane County to get to Phase 3. That seems far off now due to the region's spike in coronavirus cases.

“We were always planning for a Phase 3 event, which was what our goal was. But we started to really look at we might not get to Phase 3 by the time Hoopfest was scheduled," Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo said.

Gatherings of up to 50 people are not allowed in Washington state until Phase 3. Right now, only gatherings of five people or less are permitted in Spokane County. 

Hoopfest team captains can request a refund online

"Up until this year, my biggest nightmare was that we would wake up Saturday morning of Hoopfest and I would have forgotten to order the basketballs," Santangelo said. 

"I couldn't even dream bad enough to understand that I would be the one involved in a year like this where you're having to make really, really difficult decisions," he added.

Santangelo is concerned about Hoopfest surviving the cancellation. The success of virtual event will "go a long way" in allowing it to sustain through 2020, he said.

Santagelo said in an interview that the organization would ask for donations from the community and support from sponsors to ensure that Hoopfest stays afloat. 

According to Hoopfest's website, the event brings in $39 million annually to Spokane's economy.

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