‘We’re on life support right now’: Weekend with no Hoopfest impacting downtown businesses

SPOKANE, Wash. — Hundreds of thousands of people would normally be in downtown Spokane playing basketball this weekend. Instead, people are downtown wearing face masks and no hoops in sight.

Because of COVID-19, Hoopfest 2020 was rescheduled for the weekend of August 22. Businesses like David’s Pizza is working to navigate the pandemic and this weekend.

“Saturday Hoopfest is the biggest day of business for me personally and a lot of businesses in downtown Spokane throughout the entire year and we don’t have that to share today,” said owner, David Starr. “The longer that this draws out — we’re on life support right now. How much longer can we last?”

Up until March, 2020 was the best year since David’s Pizza opened 26 years ago.

“I’m not financially motivated. I’m community motivated,” Starr said, “and that doesn’t change just because business slows down. If anything it hardens my resolve to get back in, we work harder.”

Hoopfest organizers say the weekend events bring in about $50 million to Spokane from restaurants, hotels and shopping.

“My problems are not unique to me,” Starr explained. “It’s unique to the entire community right now. Everybody is suffering from this.”

Hoopfest is trying to bring some silver lining to what would’ve been the big weekend.

“So for the past, 30 years we’ve hosted what we call Net Day, and we’ve kept it a little quieter,” said Morgan Marum, director of media relations for Hoopfest. “We’ve just gone around to community courts and we’ve just replaced the nets.”

On Saturday, Hoopfest team members went to 110 courts to replace nets. They wanted to honor the tradition of celebrating Hoopfest. At one court, the person who thought of the idea came out to shoot some hoops.

“We thought, let’s give them the best nets,” said author and mind behind Net Day, Jess Walter. “A lot of these outdoor courts, you’re shooting on a bare rim or sometimes chain nets so it’s just a way to just sort of get people thinking about Hoopfest.”

Marum said it’s about being together with the community at a safe distance.

“We want to have a little bit of positivity right now,” she said. “You know, I think everyone needs a little bit of love and you know, Hoopfest brings so much to our community normally.”

People who usually play in Hoopfest wanted to show the love right back.

“It’s bittersweet and it’s hard right now to keep planning and moving forward, but it’s worth it because we know what it means to the community and to see people come out today and say, “Hey we understand. We stand with you. We believe in what you’re doing,” Marum explained.

While they were replacing nets, they were selling their annual Hoopfest basketballs. New this year is an online store. Marum said they’re selling out fast.

So what does Hoopfest in August look like for the event and businesses?

Marum said they’re still planning. Some ideas are to separate the kids from adults and use less courts. They’ll have hand washing stations and hand sanitizer.

As for businesses, Starr said it’s about bouncing back stronger than ever.

“We’ll be that much stronger as a community,” he said. “Our businesses will be that much stronger once we get through this.”

You can still sign up for Hoopfest. Head to their website for more information.

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