For 19 years this coming January, basketball teams from both McPherson County and the state of Kansas have been converging on the McPherson High School Roundhouse for what has become one of the premiere mid-season tournaments in the state of Kansas.
This season, the Mid-America Classic will feature three schools from the Kansas City area, in addition to MHS, Hays and Manhattan. The tournament has become a big boon to the economy of McPherson, as the teams from farther away will stay two nights in town, eating out and seeking entertainment.
As the dynamics of the tournament have changed through the years, morphing from a tournament featuring exclusively McPherson County teams to a state-wide showcase, attendance has taken a bit of a dip.
This has forced the McPherson Optimist Club, who has hosted the event since its inception, to search out alternate revenue streams. These different options include program advertising, a raffle-like event and a generous donation from NCRA.
Also providing a big boon has been the Sports Tournament Grant Program form the McPherson Convention and Vistors Bureau.
The grant is designed to help local organizers of sports tournaments to attract outside teams to the town. It accomplishes this by awarding monies up to 50 percent of the cost of sports facility rentals up to $750, $300 for a hospitality room or $750 for officials salaries.
“Without the grant and the other funding sources we would not be able to continue the tournament,” Dave Chartier, Mid-America Classic co-director along with Bob Baldwin, said. “It is our largest fund raiser each year that allows us to continue our programs for the youth of the area. Therefore, yes the grant is a critical and an integral part of the tournament.”
The McPherson CVB started the sports tournament grant program in 2011 after meeting with several event organizers to try and determine how the CVB could assist them, McPherson CVB Director Anne Hassler said.
The main areas identified by the CVB and organizers were the costs of renting a facility and officials’ salaries.
Since then, the CVB has awarded 29 total grants for a total of $14,213. Grants were originally capped at $500, but were increased to the $750 dollar limit in 2013.
McPherson High School has also made use of the tournament grants for the McPherson Basketball Invitational, as well as boys’ and girls’ soccer tournaments and tennis tournaments. Generally, the school uses the money awarded to help cover the costs of officials.
“For example, we will spend $2,700-plus on officials for the boys’ basketball tournament,” MHS Activities Director Shane Backhus said. “[The grant] will cover $750 of those costs, which allows us to spend funds in other areas that otherwise would have been spent on officials.”
Page 2 of 2 - In 2013, MHS spent $12,234 on the boys basketball tournament, also held in January. That cost included security from the McPherson Police Department, EMS services, hospitality expenses, lodging for visiting schools and other miscellaneous costs.
For the Mid-America Classic, Chartier estimates that it costs between $9,000 and $10,000 to put on the tournament and well over 1,400 hours of volunteer time.
“We pride ourselves on making this the best tournament in the state,” Chartier said. “Schools love coming here to participate in an event that is run like at state tournament and extremely competitive.”
Other area organizations who have made use of the grant program include the McPherson Kiwanis Club, who uses the money to help put on the Heart of America Volleyball tournament for middle and high school girls in January at Central Christian College.
To find out more about the program, visit the McPherson CVB website at www.visitmcpherson.com and click on the grants button on the top of the page.