Sunday brought the opening day of the 51st edition of the All Native Basketball Tournament, a long running tradition in Prince Rupert that sees the city fill up with visitors every February.
Once again the city's hotels will fill up and restaurants, night spots and stores will find increasing numbers of customers, as participants and fans from the many villages of the region and beyond make the trek to the city, eager to watch some high quality basketball and to renew acquaintances with long time friends.
It's a one week festival that not only reunites past competitors and their followers but provides for a gathering place for much of the First Nations community of the region, as well as participants sometimes from as far afield as Washington state and Alaska. Much more than just a sporting event, it has become over the years one of the richest of cultural festivals that the city experiences.
For the local community which plays host, the arrival of such a large group of visitors makes for a very busy street scene, provides for a revenue boost for local merchants and services a one week boost for revenues that certainly can change the bottom line of any store, restaurant or service with the business savvy to take advantage of such a large group of visitors.
This years tournament has been in the news recently as Prince Rupert city council debated the merits of providing a rental rebate to tournament organizers for the use of the Civic Centre complex. After a strong and at times earnest debate, conditional approval was offered to provide a 5,000 dollar cash grant should the organizing committee run into a deficit this year.
Over the last few years, the tournament has been finding that its revenues are not keeping pace with the rising cost of running the tournament, a concern that has more than a few wondering as to the future of the tournament and what can be done to ensure it's financial viability.
A long standing discussion has taken place over the last few years to investigate the option of taking the tournament on the road so to speak, with the possibility of a relocation on a permanent or alternating basis to Terrace, or other communities that might offer up a more attractive and secure financial prospectus to organizers.
Much like other large events, that could very well be a solution to the funding issues, as after 51 years the ANBT is certainly a name brand and one that could find resonance outside of its traditional home in Prince Rupert. But it's a potential decision that would surely spur much debate in the city.
While Prince Rupert City council seems to have tried to find a compromise this year between the two factions on council that split over the issue of the rental of the civic centre, perhaps a more long lasting review of how to approach the ANBT issue is required of the city.
Tourism Prince Rupert could become involved in any initiative, especially when one considers the amount of visitors and revenue that the tournament attracts each year, likewise the Economic Development Office in the city should also look into how to partner with the organizers to ensure financial success and longevity in Prince Rupert. And even the Chamber of Commerce may wish to take an active role in any discussions, as many of its members benefit from the annual influx of visitors.
Before any serious talk of relocation gets too far along, the City should take a look at the larger picture of how much the tournament not only brings into the city in the way of revenue, but how it enriches the life and atmosphere of the city for the week long run.
No doubt there will be much more discussion on the tournament once the numbers come in and the financials are examined, still the idea of the ANBT becoming a roving road show or even suspending activities, is one that would affect Prince Rupert in a detrimental fashion one would think.
For now however and for the next six days, all eyes are on the courts, the arts and crafts festival, the cultural programs and the food, the tournament runs through this week destined for the finals, which are set to take place through the day on Saturday, with the grand finale set for Saturday night.
For followers of the tournament, there is the official ANBT website as well as a Facebook fan page set up with details and discussion on the events of the week.
The CFNR radio network provides details of the tournament on their website, as well as play by play and live action via webcam of many of the weeks action over the air across the province and through a website link.
The Northern View also has posted results on their website, with the promise of Daily updates through the tournament.