Full reopening means bigger events and business boost for Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. — A much-needed boost to our economy could be coming if Washington fully opens back up by June 30th. Though the move is not set in stone, people in Spokane are planning for it in different ways. One of those ways is with Hoopfest.

Tournaments bring in millions of dollars to our economy, like the Pacific Northwest Qualifier, a volleyball tournament happening this weekend. With tournaments like this and Hoopfest, money is slowly starting to come back into our economy and benefiting businesses along the way.

“My thing about life is just have high expectations of everything,” said Robert Hemphill, owner of Chicken-n-More.

He said over the last year, he has been doing better than before the virus hit. Hemphill credits the light on Black-owned businesses and small businesses. While he said the cancellation of Hoopfest did not hurt him too much last year, he is excited to have it back.

“Every year we’re just slammed –Hoopfest, Lilac Parade,” Hemphill said. “And the first thing they do is come here because they’re attached to Chicken-n-More.”

Restaurants and hotels are not the only ones looking forward to the tournament.

“Yesterday’s news just gives us that much more boost of confidence,” said Matt Santangelo, Executive Director of Hoopfest. “It says hey, we’re going to be able to come together to enjoy Hoopfest safely for our community, for our athletes, for the volunteers, for everyone involved.”

As far as how many people can participate, Santangelo said that is a little hard to answer because we have to meet a state vaccination goal before fully reopening.

“With the moving target and what capacity looks like, we may be at a point where we have to turn people away, which is not a Hoopfest thing,” he said. “This year’s a little bit different.”

On top of capacity, the idea of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations has been thrown around. The PNQ is requiring either this weekend.

“Does it mean we’re going to have to test? Do we have to prove vaccinations? I don’t think either one of those are really in play at this moment because if we hit our marks for June 30, we should be up and running pretty well by September,” Santangelo explained.

Either way, tournaments like Hoopfest are determined to bring back the fun we missed last year.

“We not only want to provide a great experience to our athletes, show gratitude and appreciation towards our volunteers, but we also want to make the economic impact that we’re built to make,” Santangelo said.

The impact would benefit businesses and our state in the long run. According to the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, state revenue collections since November are 9% above expectations, which was explained in March’s report.

It gives partial credit to the fast vaccination distribution, which led to more typical spending patterns. In January, food and retail sales grew by more than 5%. However, uncertainty regarding COVID-19 impacts to the economy remains high.

“You learn so much from setbacks,” Hemphill said. “You learn so much from short comings until you just trust everything’s going to be ok.”

Hoopfest meets with Spokane Regional Health every two weeks to go over its plan, which has to be submitted to both the local and state health departments.

Team registration will open on June 1st and the tournament will be held on September 11-12.

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