Excitement Builds for Blue Chip USA Invitational Basketball Tournament Teams Bring Competitive Spirit, College Hopes, Youthful Energy and Significant Tourism Dollars
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - To the high school girls vying for sports scholarship dollars, it is a chance to be seen by influential scouts in search of talent. To the coaches, it is an opportunity to burnish their reputations as fertile ground for producing collegiate-level athletes. To the local Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pa., businesses, it is a healthy shot in the arm of the tourism industry.
It is the 2013 Blue Chip Basketball USA Invitational.
And one thing is clear: On all fronts, preparations are proceeding and expectations are high for the July 5-8 event. It is the largest exhibition tournament of its kind, drawing 300 teams, 500 coaches and thousands of families, support staff and fans.
The tournament is 13 years old, but the 2013 edition marks its first "official" appearance in the region. Brackets are set to square off at both the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center and Competitive Edge Sports.
Coach John Reilly of the Hudson Valley Elite, NY, is a regular at the Blue Chip USA Invitational. He is bringing two teams - totaling 20 girls - to compete.
"My team has been to the Valley Forge area before," he says, referring to the Elite's rigorous tournament travel schedule that has brought them to nearby Villanova, LaSalle and Saint Joseph's University in the past. "They're familiar with the area, and they love the hotels and love the Mall," he laughs.
The eagle-eye evaluations by college recruiters ups the ante on the USA Invitational, but Reilly mitigates that pressure through a combination of a comfortable process and conditioned repetition. "I travel extensively with this team to get them used to the rigors of this style of play," he says. "Most of my juniors have been through this before, but for some of my sophomores, it's new. We try to get them exposed early so that when they're eventually being watched by 80 coaches on the collegiate level, their nerves have all been taken care of."
Jon Lawniczak, Director of Girls Basketball for the Lightning, Long Island, NY, has six teams on his current USA Invitational roster. "It's a great event," he comments. "It's very well run. And the Valley Forge area is very nice. The turnout in college teams is impressive; my girls get the maximum possible exposure in one venue."
Players and coaches aren't the only ones trying to maximize the weeks before the July 5 tipoff. For the staff at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, the logistics of prepping, assembling and maintaining 18 basketball courts in only a handful of days require almost military precision. The center's resources will be tested by long tournament days, beginning at 8:45 a.m. and stretching onward until 9:45 p.m. and the NCAA-certification that will scrutinize compliance as play unfolds.
Bill Marchese, General Manager of the center, is not only up to the challenge, he welcomes it. "We are super excited for these girls to be competing in our area," he says. "It's not many locations that can handle this level of sport under one roof. We're glad the Blue Chip organization recognized that the Expo Center has the flexibility and the expertise to comfortably pull this off."
Marchese is also excited about the $4 million in business the tournament is predicted to generate. "This is a huge economic impact," he says. "For us, for the area hotels, for attractions and events. It's a very big deal, and there's a lot riding on our success at the 2013 tournament."
He explains: "We'd obviously like them to
come back and make this an annual event here. We want them to find a
good home in us for many, many years."
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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