Monday, June 13, 2016

6 Tips to Survive Hoopfest

6 tips to survive hoopfest, spokane hoofest, tips for hoopfest spokane

What is Hoopfest, you ask? It's only the largest 3-on-3 street basketball tournament IN THE WORLD! Held in Spokane, WA every year at the end of June. The site states "That means around 7,000 teams, 3,000 volunteers, 25​0,000 players and fans, 450 courts ​spanning 40-some downtown city blocks!  Beyond basketball, though, Hoopfest is an outdoor festival chock-full of shopping, food, interactive entertainment, and every year brings something new. It is pretty amazing how the city transforms each year."
If you've been doing Hoopfest for years, you already know. It takes some planning and prep to make it successful. If you're thinking about it for next year or going in a few weeks to beautiful Spokane, WA, (June 25-26th, 2016) there may be a tip here for you. I was grateful for my friend for sharing her experienced wisdom to help me out my first year.

Figure out where you will stay. One of the best places to stay in my opinion is Red Lion Inn at the Park. The reason is that you can park there for free as a hotel guest, they have a pool with a slide for the kids. They have meal options onsite, but no free breakfast. (Wendy's is around the corner, and McDonald's a short ride up Division Street towards the north end of town) if you want that. Many rooms also have fridges and microwaves, so you could bring your own food as well. But the biggest reason is that you can simply walk out of the hotel and through the park over to Hoopfest. About a 5-10 minute walk (yes wear comfy shoes and bring the stroller), but it's a pretty walk over the bridge with Spokane Falls raging underneath, through the tree lined park sprinkled with squirrels and marmots

But here's the snag - everything fills up quickly and you will pay premium prices for any hotel during Hoopfest weekend (the old supply and demand thing). It is not strange to book your hotel a year in advance to ensure a close in stay. Even the cheapest motel will be expensive.
If you don't have early game times and you can handle the drive into town for up to an hour, you may consider staying towards the north end of town and even just into Idaho. We been going for years and one year we booked late, and could barely find anything under $275/night if at all. We booked at Coeur D'Alene Casino Resort Hotel for $95/night. It was a beautiful place with a great pool, gift shop and amenities, plus a casino for a little nighttime fun for Mom and Dad. (Our kids were old enough to leave in the room) Of course, you can also find RV and camping places for less.
After you have your four players (3 + 1 sub) all with accommodations set up, the best part is picking the team name and figuring out your matching costumes. You will see mucho inspiration when you see all the teams playing. My youngest daughter's team is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this year. We got matching TMNT tees from Walmart, and will cut off the arms and open up the sides (for ease of play and cool off factor), then we ordered the color of our "turtle" Nike head ties from Amazon. They will wear whatever black shorts they own, bright colored sports bras, and socks to match their headbands. Easy, right? You will need to get player info and register months ahead.

In the past we have been Super Heroes with the cape socks, black & pink cheetahs with glittered names on their shirts, tie-dye shirts, etc. (You get the idea). Oh, and practice together and figure out who will be "the coach" to sub in/out. Yes, it can be one of the parents. Also decide if you're playing in a standard or elite division. More info here.

Prep the night before. You can find the map here of the entire event. Look up your bracket and team name to find out where your game court is. Screenshot on your phone and then enlarge to find the cross streets. if you are driving into the area, you might find parking at River Park Square (great shopping BTW). See also the site's suggestions for parking here.

Also this year (so exciting....) there's an APP FOR THAT! Download the Hoopfest App here.

Know your court sponsor. (Ex: McDonalds or Dr. Pepper, etc.) When you get to your cross streets, you will be looking for the sponsor name at the top of the court markers and the number. IT.IS.A.ZOO! Allow plenty of time to get parked, drag your stuff and kiddos and walk through the maze of people to get to your court on time. Nothing worse than adding stress on top of this because you are late. The games are very short, probably only @ 20mins. long, and they keep things moving. The nice part is that the court will remain the same for all the games until the team is out.

Spokane has some really good shopping both in Downtown, at River Park Square, up at the Northtown Mall, and slightly east at the Spokane Valley Mall. The PLAN YOUR STAY section of the Hoopfest site has some suggestions for where to stay, park and other tips.

There is a fun, athletic and youthful vibe at this event. The music is playing, the sun is shining, and everyone is having fun and enjoying the game. You can't help but join in.

Aside from Hoopfest itself, which is packed full of people watching, seeing the various teams play from young kids, to family teams, to crazy college boys in tutus, to the old timers (40+ but still amazing to watch) teams, there is something for everyone. There are street vendors all over, plus all the shopping you can handle. And your tan (hopefully not burn) will look pretty good when you come home. Be sure and take a minute to get the schedule of Nike Center Court to watch some real talent by the elite players. So much fun to watch!

In addition to the event, be sure and check out what Riverfront park has to offer. Feed the ducks over by the convention center, ride the giant red wagon slide, take photos around the park, children will enjoy the amusement area with rides and IMAX theatre with the latest releases. And did I mention the shopping was good?
River Park Square Mall, Spokane, WA

Another family fun add-on is to combine Hoopfest with a visit to Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho. About a 1-1.5 hour drive out of Spokane. You can usually purchase cheaper tickets at Costco a month or so before the summer begins, or look online for coupons and discounts. It is totally doable in one day. There is the rides side, and the water park side. Tickets get you entry to both. It has a small park feel, but with rides for all ages, shows and a relaxing and fun train ride with a old time western hold-up played out  - not to be missed.

What about you? Do you go every year? Do you have any funny stories or tips and tricks for the rest of us? I'd love to hear.
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