(CNS Local Life): Eight top NCAA Division 1 men’s college basketball teams from the US will be coming to Grand Cayman in November to play in the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic preseason tournament. The Cincinnati Bearcats, Iowa Hawkeyes, Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, Wyoming Cowboys, Buffalo Bulls, South Dakota State Jackrabbits, Richmond Spiders and University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers will play in 12 games over the course of three days at the new John Gray High School gymnasium, which is the only facility on island that meets both NCAA and FIBA requirements.
The event is being hosted by Caymax Sports and sponsored by the Mountain West Conference of the NCAA. Hundreds of fans, alumni and supporters usually travel with each team, and organisers are anticipating at least 2,000 visitors to the island just before the start of the traditional tourism high season, stated a press release.
The Cayman Islands Classic, which will become an annual event, has been six years in the making, and is the brainchild of Caymax CEO Joe Wright and President Victor “Coach Voot” O’Garro. It joins other pre-season college basketball tournaments hosted in tropical destinations such as the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands (USVI) and Maui, Hawaii.
From a sports tourism perspective, organisers believe the tournament will have a similar positive impact on the local economy as it has had on the other islands. The USVI Paradise Jam tournament has a 22:1 return on investment and approximately $2.4 million in “direct economic impact” and $6 million in media exposure for the country, according to USVI Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
The Bahamas’ Battle 4 Atlantis, now in its seventh year, attracts more than 5,000 fans during Thanksgiving week and helps to increase hotel capacity from what is typically around 60 percent that time of year to 90 percent. The 2015 Maui Jim Maui Invitational generated $17.2 million in visitor spending for that island according to data provided by the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, and has contributed more than $205 million to the local island economy since its inception in 1984.
“The ministries of both sports and tourism are pleased to support the Cayman Islands Classic,” said Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell. “This is an opportunity to showcase our world famous ‘Caymankindness’ to a new visitor demographic, and strengthen our sports tourism product.
“The ministry and our partners in sports have worked hard to build our Islands’ reputation as a world class sports tourism destination to encourage events of this calibre to our shores. The potential economic impact and boost to stayover visitation that will be gained from the tournament is huge and will benefit a wide crosssection of business and services. We as a country need to capitalise on that, and do our best to ensure that this event, and this destination, become permanent fixtures on the NCAA calendar.”
O’Garro said of the event: “The Cayman Islands Classic is a big coup for the Cayman Islands, and we are so thrilled that we were able to make it happen. We have known for years that we have the infrastructure and the capability to host this calibre of event but we just needed the proper facility, which we now have with the new John Gray gymnasium.
“Not only will these teams and their families, fans, officials and supporters have a first-class experience here in Cayman but local basketballers, especially our youth players, will have the chance to see the game played at a higher level. We have some players who would like to play college ball, and this tournament will help them understand what is expected for them to get to this level of the game.”
In addition to the actual tournament, which takes place from 20-22 November, there will be a youth basketball camp for kids aged 7 to 12 on Saturday, 18 November, and a charity golf tournament the following day.
All proceeds from that tournament will go to Meals on Wheels, YMCA Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Youth Programme.
Booster packages (one ticket to all three of a team’s games), the all-tournament pass and all individual game tickets are available on the event website.