Ball tourney brings in 9,000, restarts Convention Center during COVID-19

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — News 8 was told 9,000 people are in Indianapolis for the Tournament of Champions.

The basketball event started earlier in the week and will run through the weekend. If no one contracts the coronavirus from the event, Indiana’s struggling convention business could get a boost.

Indianapolis has not hosted any events in the Convention Center in months. Signs on the front door tell visitors to wear a mask before entering. Once inside, more signs at the front door’s exhibit halls warn visitors to stop and enter at their own risk.

Kenneth Gibson is attending the convention. “I think it has been well-controlled. They are making sure everybody has their mask on and everything. They make sure you have your mask on. If not, you have to leave.”

Every person who came to the event is required to sign a waiver each day. Organizers can use the information for contact tracing in case someone contract the virus.

Amanda Ewing, the director of the tournament, said, “So, we are collecting a new waiver for every team, for every player, every coach, every official, all of our staff, all the attendees, their parents, grandparent or guardian, whoever come with them, every person every day. We have all their information so if anyone contacting, we can quickly contact-trace and we are in partnership with the Marion County health department in order to do so.”

Inside each exhibit hall, the organizers have set up two basketball courts. Seating capacity is up to 250 people. The general pubic is not allowed. Players sit on the benches 6 feet apart from one another. Outside in the Convention Center hallways, pedestrian traffic patterns are in place to keep people separated. Convention Center staff clean high-touch areas throughout the day.

For the Convention Center, 9,000 is a small crowd.

Chris Gahl of Visit Indy, the city’s tourism arm, said that “this weeklong activity, the first again inside the Indiana Convention Center, will generate more than $8 million in economic impact, a very welcome boost to not only the downtown but the regional economy.”

The Tournament of Champions is typically in Chicago with 30,000 people in attendance. Chicago was not going to allow the tournament this year, so the organizers started looking around and found Indianapolis willing to host a smaller version of the tournament.

The tournament is a test plot of a sorts. Organizers of other events scheduled for the Convention Center on the fence, but, if this event is successful, it could open the doors for Indianapolis.

Gahl said, “So this event is really emblematic of Indy’s ability to take this event and put it into place in a meaningful, safe, healthy way and also being able to turn around to other event organizers: ‘Here’s proof that we are able to pull off a tournament in a safe. meaningful way.”

Through Friday, so far, no one’s contracted COVID-19.