Maui Invitational generated $11.5M in visitor spending

The 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational dunked $11.5 million in visitor spending to Maui County’s economy, according to an announcement from the promoter of the annual event hosted by Chaminade University.

The amount represented an increase of $3.4 million compared with the 2011 college basketball tournament, the announcement said. The Nov. 19-21 event drew 5,000 people to the Lahaina Civic Center during Thanksgiving weekend, when much of the Mainland was chilled by cold winter weather.

The tournament “provides a tremendous economic benefit to many businesses on the island, including hotels and restaurants,” said Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau. “We are extremely pleased with the increased economic impact that the tournament produced this past year. Our residents and businesses take pride in extending the aloha spirit and welcoming thousands of visitors to the island each year to enjoy the tournament and experience the wonderful scenery, people and culture.”

According to EA Sports, the Maui tournament has boosted the island’s economy by more than $164 million since its debut in 1984. More than 6.6 million people watched televised tournament coverage on ESPN worldwide, the announcement said.

The tournament also supports a number of community organizations through various programs, such as the Charity Free Throw Contest, which has generated nearly $25,000 for Maui schools. Last year, Chaminade University and the tournament worked with Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui, Boys & Girls Clubs of Hawaii, the county Department of Parks and Recreation, Hawaiian Airlines and Adidas to conduct basketball kids and coaches clinics.

Children and chaperons from Molokai and Lanai participated in the clinic at Lahaina’s Malu-‘ulu-o-Lele Park and were able to watch Chaminade’s practice at the Lahaina Civic Center. The group also met ESPN broadcasters Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery.

King Kekaulike High School basketball player Chase Iwata-Bartelme was selected to host several segments for the nationally syndicated TV program “EA Sports Game Time.” The program featured the Maui basketball player covering games and team activities and conducting interviews with coaches and players during the week.

The tournament also worked with the military to help a soldier recover and transition from duty to civilian life. Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Webb of the U.S. Marine Corps and a participant in the Marines Wounded Warrior Regiment program was honored as an official game ball presenter before the Chaminade-Texas first round game.

“Beginning our 35th year of the nation’s premier early-season college basketball tournament on Maui, we’re proud of the impact the event has been able to have on local businesses, charities and the people of this great island,” said Tom Valdiserri, executive vice president of KemperLesnik, operator of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. “The tournament focus centers on great competition and community involvement in the world’s greatest location.”

The 2013 tournament team lineup is Arkansas, Baylor, California, Dayton, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Syracuse and host Chaminade.