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It’s official: Maui Invitational moves to North Carolina for 2020

North Carolina coach Roy Williams directs his players during a Maui Invitational game on Nov. 23, 2016. The Tar Heels are part of this year’s field, with games scheduled for Nov. 23-25 at the Lahaina Civic Center. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The 2020 Maui Jim Maui Invitational will be held in Asheville, N.C., the first time in the 37-year history of the event that it will not be held on Maui. This year’s event had been slated for Nov. 23-25 at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Event organizer KemperLesnik emailed The Maui News a statement saying the event plans to return to the Valley Isle next year.

“While the decision to move this year’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational to Asheville, North Carolina did not come easily, we look forward to reuniting with the Maui community in 2021 at the Lahaina Civic Center,” KemperLesnik said in the statement.

Earlier this morning, KemperLesnik emailed this statement to The Maui News:

“For the first time ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and schedule changes announced by the NCAA, the Maui Jim Maui Invitational is planning to relocate to Asheville, NC with games to be played at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville operating under the guidance of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for mass gatherings. Tournament dates will be announced shortly. We look forward to bringing the Spirit of Aloha to the mainland.”

Maui County Councilmember Riki Hokama, chair of the Council’s Healthy Families and Communities Committee which oversees the Department of Parks and Recreation, said in a news release that he received confirmation today from KemperLesnik that this year’s edition will not take place on Maui.

“I realize that these are unprecedented times due to the ongoing pandemic, and I understand the very tough decision to relocate this year’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational,” Hokama said.

KemperLesnik is committed to highlighting Maui County during telecasts and promotion of the 2020 event, Hokama’s release said.

“KemperLesnik has long been a tremendous partner ofthe County of Maui, and I support the Maui Invitational as it looks forward to a successful 2020 event and return to Maui in 2021” said Hokama.

The 2021 Maui Jim Maui Invitational field is Oregon, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Butler, Texas A&M, Houston, St. Mary’s and host Chaminade of Honolulu.

Dr. Lynn Babington, the president of Chaminade University, also released a statement.

“We’re disappointed but understand that the Maui Invitational cannot be played in Hawaii this year due to the pandemic and delayed start of the NCAA basketball season,” Babington said. “The health and safety of the players, officials and others involved take precedent. The Maui Invitational is such a special event for the Chaminade community, and we look forward to welcoming the tournament back to Hawaii in 2021.”

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that the 2020-20 basketball season may not begin until Nov. 25.

Tournament organizKemperLesnik told The Maui News in late August “At this time, we expect the Maui Jim Maui Invitational to proceed as scheduled. The Tournament is evaluating various contingencies should the event not be played on Maui due to the pandemic. Our top priority remains the health and safety of our players, staff and dedicated fans.”

The event lost Stanford University as a participant when the Pac-12 Conference said in August that no sports can take place amongst conference members until at least Jan. 1, 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The other teams in the 2020 event are Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Texas and UNLV.

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