High school basketball tournament a $1.8 million draw for AC

ATLANTIC CITY — A three-year bid to lure a high school basketball showcase from Pennsylvania to the resort is expected to net the city 6,000 extra visitors and $1.8 million in economic activity this weekend, tourism officials say.

The Atlantic City Convention Center has set up 18 basketball courts to host the first Atlantic City Hoop Group Jam Fest, featuring 2,000 of the best high school boys basketball players in the region.

The tournament, which started Friday and ends Sunday, features more than 200 Amateur Athletic Union teams, said Dan Gallagher, sports account director of Meet AC, the city’s tourism and convention bureau.

“We are more than elated to host this event for the next three years,” said Gallagher.

The Atlantic City Jam Fest is similar to an event held in April at the Convention Center called the Adidas Gauntlet Atlantic City Showcase, which featured more than 300 girls basketball teams ranging from seventh to 12th grades from more than 20 states, Gallagher said.

Atlantic City captured the NCAA-sanctioned event from the Nook Sports building in Manheim, Pennsylvania, Gallagher said.

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, said it’s great for Atlantic City to have different segments coming into the city and not just the gaming segment.

“The basketball games are a big plus for Atlantic City,” Pandit said. “People are coming to watch the games, but they also need to eat and places to stay. … There will be incremental revenues.”

Brian J. Tyrrell, professor of hospitality and tourism management at Stockton, said it is interesting that the NCAA-sanctioned AAU tournament arrives the same year Gov. Phil Murphy signs sports betting into law. The NCAA was among the leagues that sued to block New Jersey from legalizing sports betting prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized it in June.

In Nevada, a portion of tourists will travel to see sports and build a multi-night stay around the event.

“I had the opportunity to live in Las Vegas. For football and basketball during the weekend of tournaments, people would be wearing jerseys all over,” Tyrrell said.

During the summer, local hotel rooms will probably sell out anyway, but if a similar event could be held in October or November or February or March, rooms will be sold that might not be sold otherwise, Tyrrell said.  

City Council President Marty Small Sr., a former professional basketball player with the Atlantic City Seagulls in the United States Basketball League, said hosting the event lets the city show off the resort to the visiting teens.

“Who wouldn’t want to come to the beach? Who wouldn’t want to come here?” he said.

“We are an entertainment destination. If Las Vegas can have an AAU tournament, why can’t we?” he said.

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