Tuesday, September 2, 2014
The two Nike tournaments in July brought an estimated $4.5 million to the area.
The Peach Jam – the boys Elite Youth Basketball League finals – and the Nike Nationals – the championship tournament for the girls – brought more than 14,000 people to the Augusta area, according to Rick Meyer, director of North Augusta Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services.
“The biggest thing that the Peach Jam and Nike Nationals had this year was growth – more coaches, more spectators and bigger crowds in the gym,” he said. “In our situation, we sandwiched the South Carolina Dixie Boys Baseball tournament in-between those events, so we had a busy July. Everything went really well.”
The staff at Riverview Park Activities Center pulled off the tournaments with few problems – aside from misplacing Penny Hardaway’s car keys – because they have experience running the tournament.
“The beauty of our staff is that we’ve had very little turnover,” Meyer said. “They have been here for a good, long time; and each person knows their responsibility. It’s like a coaching staff; when your staff stays intact, there’s continuity in everything. The only thing new that we bring in are interns. They’re the only ones that really don’t know what all needs to be done. It ran like clockwork.”
The two Nike-sponsored tournaments are now the second-biggest moneymaker for the Augusta area – only behind The Masters Tournament – Clint Bryant, athletic director for Georgia Regetns University, told Meyer.
The exposure North Augusta receives from the two tournaments is also huge for the area, Meyer said.
“I think having ESPN did bring some bigger crowds to the Peach Jam,” he said. “People love to be seen on TV, and it brings national attention to North Augusta. I’ve been to Florida and Ohio – people know the Peach Jam. Not only do they know, they know it’s North Augusta, S.C. North Augusta is now the hotbed for July recruiting.”
Along with satellite tournaments in the Aiken and Augusta area, there were more than 300 teams playing basketball during the Peach Jam, and even more tournaments than ever before during Nike Nationals.
“The numbers keep growing – there were 307 teams the week of the Peach Jam in the CSRA,” Meyer said. “That’s the most ever – it’s huge. We only have 40 here, because that’s all we can have. There were 70-something in the Elite Youth Invitational, and the Peach State had the rest. Who knows, next year, there will probably be even more.”
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The North Augusta Star.