SPOKANE, Wash. - Hoopfest will soon take over downtown Spokane, with a quarter of a million players, fans and families. This year, they'll notice some major changes because of construction in Riverfront Park.
Much of the park that typically serves as the center of Hoopfest is closed and under construction. But, Hoopfest knew it was coming and has been able to plan ahead. Now, they need players and fans to do the same.
"We've been forced to move some things out of the park - and to other areas of the park," Santangelo explained. "It's certainly been a challenge."
We took a walk through the construction zone with Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo. He pointed out some of the biggest changes people will see at this year's event.
One of the first things players will notice is that team check-in has moved. The Gondola Meadow is being remade into an ice skating ribbon, so team check-in this year will be in the U.S. Pavilion, across the river. The nearby Clocktower Meadow will be home to food fest, with dozens of food vendors selling their wares throughout Hoopfest weekend. Clocktower Meadow will also be home to the Family Fun Zone and merchandise tents that will also feature athlete autograph stations throughout the weekend.
Getting to Clocktower Meadow is easier than you might think. While the bridge near the former carousel building is closed, you can access the north side of the river by walking through Red Wagon Meadow on the east side of the park. Red Wagon Meadow will also be home to the Avista master scoreboard, where teams will bring in score sheets to be entered into the master bracket.
"The park's still open," Santangelo reminds participants. "Yeah, there are some things that are closed due to construction, but we're still using a lot of the park."
Hoopfest will also move the center of the action right into the center of downtown Spokane. Specifically, Nike Center Court. What had been in the main meadow is now in the Bennett Block parking lot at Stevens and Spokane Falls Boulevard. That lot will also be home to the Hoopfest store, the volunteer check-in and information tent, the Toyota Shootoff and the Hoopfest studios of KXLY4 News, where we will have exclusive access to broadcast live all weekend long.
"We wouldn't be able to do this without the support of local business owners," Santangelo said. "We've gotten tremendous support from the owner of this property because we have to set up so early. She's been so supportive and a great advocate for Hoopfest. We're really thankful for her."
Santangelo suspects that while some changes are temporary, some could prove so popular they become permanent for Hoopfest, even after the park renovation is complete.
This year, Hoopfest just wants you to be patient - and prepared. Allow extra time this year and make sure you download the Hoopfest App, which uses GPS to get you exactly where you want to go.