BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — In the twin cities, an annual high school basketball tournament is returning this year after not taking place last year due to the pandemic.
The State Farm Holiday Classic tipped off this week and has so far been a slam dunk for local businesses in the hospitality industry.
The four-day tournament brings more than 120 schools from across the region, mainly Illinois, to Bloomington-Normal. The players, coaches and fans all need places to eat and sleep in between games.
High school basketball teams and fans are booming business for Bloomington-Normal’s hospitality industry, like bars and restaurants.
“It’s been great, we had one of the better Mondays we’ve had in a long time here,” said Lucus Rokos, general manager of Pub II in Normal. “The amount of people we’re seeing is helping out during a usually slower time of the year.”
Rokos said at Pub II, he’s seen both locals and out of towners coming in throughout the week to grab a drink or bite to eat.
“A lot of the people have been here over the years and this is always a good spot for them to stop back into,” Rokos said. “We’re well equipped to handle larger groups of people without reservations and what not so people know this is a good place to stop to for that.”
Last year COVID-19 canceled the basketball tournament meaning less foot traffic not just at bars but also hotels.
“It’s always a sell-out weekend whenever it happens. We usually have anywhere between three and five teams staying with us plus families staying here on their own,” said Meredith Hall, director of sales at the Normal Hampton Inn & Suites.
Hall said the Hampton Inn, which is a host hotel for the tournament, said they’re seeing the number of people they’d expect for the tournament.
Additionally, he said it’s great to have some sort of return to normalcy.
“I think the past year has been one of the hardest for everyone, especially hospitality and it’s great for morale to see the teams back,” Hall said.
The tournament tipped off on Monday and concludes Thursday night with the championship and third-place games.