Blue Chip USA Invitational Provides a Slam Dunk To Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Four-day Girls' Basketball Tournament Nets an Estimated $5.5 Million
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Full of attention and purpose, she starts forward. Side-stepping opponents, she lets nothing stand between her and her objective. A fake left, a dodge right. Eyes set with laser-beam intensity. With a final push of adrenaline, she reaches forward, oblivious to the din around her. Her arm stretches out, shortening the space between her and her objective until... Score!
This scenario played itself out time and time again on the courts at the Blue Chip USA Invitational tournament, the largest girls' basketball event in the country, as young hoopsters charged the nets.
It also occurred once or twice at the Court (and Plaza) at King of Prussia Mall, as these BFFs filled their downtime chasing down a pair of cute flip-flops or colorful headband on display.
From July 5-8, an estimated 6,000 players, family members, coaches, team staff members, recruiters and fans descended on the Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania area, cheering their favorites as play unfolded at both the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center and Competitive Edge Sports. It was the first time the area has hosted a girls' basketball event of this magnitude, and in the after-glow of a successful four days, both the organizing committee and the county are interested in a repeat.
The economic boost to the region was formidable: Early figures for lodging reveal more than $500,000 in revenue. Ancillary business services gained approximately $830,000 as tournament play unfolded.
All that bob-and-weave, charging the net and soaring for a slam dunk burnt calories; local food and beverage revenue was reportedly somewhere near $825,000.
But the Blue Chip USA Invitational was successful on a level that went far beyond P&L statements.
According to Bill McDonough, Blue Chip owner: "We were very pleased, receiving quite a few complements afterward from our coaches via email. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: They liked the space; they liked the area; they liked the convenient, easy transportation between the two sites and they liked the hotels. They appreciated that the tournament ran on time, and they were very impressed with the representation from college coaches, which is the whole point of the USA Invitational: to get these young athletes seen for recruitment."
The logistics of 264 teams playing concurrently - and tracking brackets as winners advance - can be a daunting task. But at least one of the coaches appreciated the 21st Century approach to keeping the timetable running smoothly.
The Fencor Girls' AAU Basketball Club (Warrington, Pa.) is one of the largest and most successful in the league, with a 25-year history of play at the tournament level. Executive director Steve Chapman says, "I had four Fencor teams participating, and things went very well. The tournament was very well organized, and the schedule ran on time. The use of software to ensure that the games were played according to schedule was a very good way of running things."
Pat Lamb, coach of the Bay State Magic Elite (Carver, Mass.), used July 4 as a travel day, ensuring early arrival for the July 5 tipoffs. "We brought three teams, each with 11 players, ages 13-16. Each of those girls had at least one parent, and maybe a sibling or two. So that meant a total of about 100 people who came with us," he says.
Lamb summed up his time in Valley Forge: "The experience was tremendous. The weather was hot, but I suspect the weather was hot everywhere that weekend. The facility was great, and the way [Blue Chip] ran the tournament was great.
"I've been doing this for 20 years or so, and I've got to say that our hotel [Embassy Suites Philadelphia Valley Forge] was probably one of the top hotels I've ever stayed in," he continues. "The management and staff were tremendous. Some hotel offices get antsy with that many kids around, but this one was great. They recognized that the kids would want to run around a bit, and they patiently allowed that, only asking that the kids really just settle down at night. I definitely look forward to going again for the next few years."
A return of the Blue Chip USA Invitational to the Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pa., region is now in the discussion phase, but early indications are a go. Blue Chip has tentatively booked the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center and Competitive Edge Sports for the 16th annual NCAA-certified Fall Ball Classic, September 28-29.
The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ltd. is a nonprofit, membership-based sales and marketing organization that aggressively promotes the Valley Forge area and Montgomery County as a convention site and leisure visitor destination by encouraging patronage of its 300-plus member hotels, restaurants, attractions and services. The Bureau's website, at www.valleyforge.org, serves visitors, meeting planners, tour operators and residents.
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