SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The 30th annual Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions is underway. The event draws the biggest names in high school basketball from across the country and it’s not just the players that are the winners.
From the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some future pro ball players, to the local economic impact, the 30th Annual Bass Pro Tournament of Champions is a win-win situation for the Ozarks.
“An event like this that's nationally recognized that brings in that number of people over several days, it is a big boost,” says Bambinos co-owner Andy Faucett.
Thursday afternoon, the arena was empty, but nearly 24,000 spectators are expected to fill these seats for a little basketball over the next three days.
“Thirty years ago it was a hit on the first night and it's continued to be,” says Springfield Public Schools Director of Athletics Mark Fisher.
Two local teams - Kickapoo and Willard - play teams from all over the country. People from Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Tennessee, and California are flocking to JQH Arena.
“The majority of those will be within two to three hours of Springfield, so maybe 10 percent would be outside of the area,” says Fisher.
Local hotels are cashing in.
“I know the University Plaza is full this weekend,” says Fisher.
Local restaurants, like Gilardi's and Bambinos are anticipating the business boost.
“I looked at our sales from last year and that Saturday of the Tournament of Champions was our busiest day by far,” says Faucett. “So it definitely does bring in some people.”
“Each of one those parties will increase my sales between 10 to 15 percent for those nights which completely changes my whole week,” says James Martin, the owner of Gilardi’s.
The Tournament of Champions is all about sports, says Fisher. The event has many benefits.
“It's not just about playing basketball it's about kids having memories and at the same time helping the Springfield Public Schools athletic program,” says Fisher.
Proceeds go to the Springfield Public Schools Athletic Program, to buy new sports equipment and uniforms.
285 NCAA division one players have taken part in the Tournament of Champions. More than 40 of them went on to have pro careers in the NBA. Included in that group are the Celtics Fab Melo, the Wizard's John Wall and the Lakers Lamar Odom.
In fact, four of the top ten NBA picks in the 2010 draft played in the Tournament of Champions.