Welcome to basketball fans

Thanksgiving week is always an exciting time on Maui – and not just because we’re getting ready to give thanks for all our blessings and fill the ol’ tank with turkey and stuffing.

One of the highlights of the week is always the EA Sports Maui Invitational college basketball tournament conducted annually at the Lahaina Civic Center. In this year’s tournament, host Chaminade will be joined by teams from Arkansas, Baylor, California, Dayton, Gonzaga, Minnesota and Syracuse.

The action will tip off Monday with Arkansas facing California at 10 a.m. That game will be followed by Minnesota vs. Syracuse at 12:30 p.m., then Chaminade vs. Baylor at 4:30 p.m. Monday’s final game will see Dayton take on Gonzaga at 7 p.m.

For sports fans on the Mainland, the Maui Invitational is the true tipoff of the college basketball season. It may end with March Madness, but for the true zealot it begins with Lahaina Lunacy.

It also is an invaluable promotional tool for the Maui visitor industry. Gorgeous shots of our island paradise will be broadcast around the world on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU Monday through Wednesday.

The Maui Invitational will be followed in January by the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. While it is no longer the first tournament of the PGA season (several fall tournaments were included in the 2013-14 chase for the FedEx Cup), it is the first tournament of the new year.

These sports events burnish Maui’s image around the world. It is impossible to calculate how many visitors are driven to book their vacations here by the images seen during these events.

Of course, there is also the direct economic impact. The Maui Invitational will add several million dollars to our economy this week.

So, thanks to the teams and the fans who are gathered here this week. We know you’ll enjoy your stay and want you to know we appreciate having you here.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.