Wheelchair basketball tourney slam-dunk for local hotel

Six divisions -- Championship, Division III, Women's, Varsity, National Invitational and Prep -- will compete this week in the National Wheelchair Basketball tournament.

More than 1,000 of the nation’s top wheelchair basketball athletes arrive this week in Colorado Springs for the National Wheelchair Basketball tournament.

For the first time, the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, which is headquartered in the Springs, chose to host its annual tournament in its hometown. Tip off and a local celebrity VIP game are both scheduled for Thursday, March 22.

In the past. the tournament has been held in Denver. But a group of local sponsors, including El Pomar Foundation and the Daniels Fund, helped convince the association that they wanted their business here, said Tim Leigh, Colorado Springs council member.

“I’m really excited about this event,” Leigh said. “This is something we have been working on for a year.”

The tournament is one of the largest wheelchair basketball events in the world and features male and female athletes from across the country. Randy Schubert, NWBA executive director, said he was excited to bring the event to Colorado Springs.

“The game is fast, exciting and a beautiful sport to watch,” he said. “We hope the people of Colorado Springs will come out and see the best of what sports competition is all about.”

Hosting the large event provides a nice bump at this time of the year in hotel room bookings, said Dana Kahlhamer, Crowne Plaza associate director of sales. The Crowne Plaza has 1,000 room nights booked for this tournament.

“We are thrilled,” she said.  “This is a great time to host this event in Colorado Springs. Availability is great. We were able to be competitive on room rates and offer a very appealing rate for this group in a new destination.”

Most of the games will be played at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where six games can been played simultaneously. Over four days, teams in six divisions will play 168 games. Palmer, Doherty and Wasson high schools will also host some of the games.

“The event tracks perfectly with March Madness,” Leigh said. “This is really a big deal and we want a big community hug around these players so they want to come back next year and the next year.”

For a full schedule of games go to: www.nwba.org/