Upcoming youth basketball tournaments benefit school and community

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When a community like Rushford-Peterson gets a new school building, it’s a lot of fun to show it off to people from outside the district. When that opportunity also results in an economic boost for the community it’s even better.

That double benefit will occur on six weekends in January and February, when the R-P gymnasium will be the host site for a series of youth basketball tournaments that will bring in players, parents, and fans from all over. In addition to showcasing the new facility, the tournaments also have a beneficial impact on area businesses during a traditionally slow time of year.

“When we first had the idea last year, we met with Superintendent Ehler and community members to discuss the idea,” said R-P boys’ basketball coach Chris Drinkall. “We wanted something that would bring people into the new school and bring people in to spend money at our area businesses. We thought running a youth basketball tournament would be a great way to do that.”

The tournaments are for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. R-P will host three boys’ basketball team-tournaments and three for girls’ teams. The boys’ tournaments are on Jan. 12, Feb. 2, and Feb. 23. The girls’ tournaments take place on Jan. 26, Feb. 9, and Feb. 16.

So far, between 12 and 24 teams will be in Rushford on those dates. There is actually room in the schedule for a few more teams, so Drinkall said anyone interested in participating can call him at the Rushford-Peterson School.

Drinkall said Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber Executive Coordinator Jen Hengel “ran the community side of it” last year, while he ran the tournaments. There were different tables in the school with community information available for people in town for the tournaments, something organizers will do again this year.

“Last year, we had menus on those tables for Burdey’s Café, Stumpy’s, the Creamery, and things like that,” Drinkall recalled. “It was all about showing off the new school and bringing people into town to spend money at our businesses.”

Last year’s tournament featured anywhere between 16 and 24 teams each Saturday. Hengel said she was grateful that tournament organizers gave her a heads up on the tournament idea so the Chamber could get going on letting businesses know an opportunity would be coming.

“They wanted to ensure that these tournaments would be a benefit to the community,” Hengel said. “It was important to let businesses know what the dates were and how many people they could expect on a Saturday. It gave the businesses a chance to make sure they had everything on hand and enough staff to take care of their customers.

“I had a chance to collect information from area businesses, such as hours of operation, and put it into a handout for people that we had available at a community information table,” she said. “We also had restaurant information, including specials, and some of them even brought coupons up to the school as well. Plus, we had a community map to help people find what they were looking for.”

Hengel said those tournaments brought in anywhere from 200 to 400 people on a given Saturday. She said that the number of people coming through the area during winter months, which are typically slow for businesses, was a very good thing. This year, the new community information kiosk displayed in the school will help people from outside the area find Rushford and Peterson businesses.

“We got some feedback from people who attended the tournaments and they said, ‘there was a lot more to the community than I expected,’” Hengel said. “There was enough time between games for some of the kids to head down and bowl at Nordic Lanes. There were different things to do, including bowling, on the map that we handed out.

“The businesses I talked to were pleased as well,” she added. “The ones I talked to said they definitely had more people coming through their doors on those days.”