Over the past few decades, the city of Spokane has become synonymous with basketball. This is largely due to Gonzaga men’s basketball and also to the world’s largest three-on-three outdoor basketball tournament — Hoopfest.
As a true Spokanite, Hoopfest has always been my favorite weekend of the year. This event, along with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Spokane Lilac Fesitval’s Torchlight Parade, Bloomsday and Pig- out in the Park are what makes Spokane the city I love. These events take place in the center of our city, right next to the river.
Now, these decadelong traditions may be forced to move out of the streets they began on.
The City of Spokane is working on passing an ordinance which would charge local events (like Hoopfest) thousands of dollars to hire public safety personnel and police officers to be present at the events.
Currently, local parades do not have to pay these fees, but if this ordinance is passed, then the Lilac Festival Association would have to contribute to pay these fees.
According to an article by Fox 28 Spokane, “The ordinance would require parades to pay 25% of the public safety cost, legacy events (Bloomsday, Hoopfest, Pig-Out in the Park) to pay 50%, and all other events to pay 75%.”
But with the COVID-19 pandemic and other hurdles these events already face, some event organizations are worried the costs may be too much if the ordinance passes.
If local events can’t afford the public safety costs, what does that mean for Spokanites?
It means that our favorite events may be forced to go elsewhere.
But events like Hoopfest aren't the same without the city of Spokane surrounding it.
It's also about being in the streets — the ones that are usually lined with cars that look up to buildings like River Park Square and the Clock Tower in RiverFront Park. It isn't really Hoopfest weekend until you lose one of your basketballs right in the middle of hooping on the Washington Street Bridge.
The streets in downtown Spokane have so much history, and significance to the people who live here.
Hoopfest, Pig-out and parades like the Torchlight Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade are important aspects of the memories made on the streets just blocks away from the Spokane River.
There is something magical about sitting down underneath a tree in the park when you finish your final game of the day, and you need to chug some water before booking it over the Monroe Street Bridge to see your buddies get their butts whooped by a taller team.
Not only that, but the Hoopfest website states that the event brings in about $50 million annually to our local economy.
The cancellation of the in-person tournament in 2020 was heartbreaking for me and friends who love participating in the event.
For 2021, Hoopfest has been moved to Sept. 11-12. Once again, postponing the event in hopes to have an in-person tournament.
The Spokane City Council was set to vote on the ordinance on Jan. 25, but has yet to vote after receiving a flood of questions and concerns from Spokane residents.
Ultimately, I hope the city council takes into account the economic impact that events, like Hoopfest, have for our economy, and is able to compromise with local events in order to make sure they stay where they belong — on the streets of downtown Spokane.