This past Saturday and Sunday, for the second consecutive weekend, you would have encountered a problem if you wanted to get from Highway 395 to, say, Eastside Market.
Instead of taking the direct route, a straight shot down Main Street, you would have had to travel down East Gladys Avenue or East Hulbert Avenue before cutting over to Main Street once you got to Northeast Fourth Street.
Two weeks ago, it was Funfest that shut down the first four blocks of Main Street. This past weekend, it was Hermiston’s seventh annual “Takin’ It to the Streets” 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
An inconvenience for some? No doubt, especially for some of the businesses on Main Street that weren’t able to conduct normal business hours.
But organizers said the inconvenience was a small price to pay given the overall economic boost the tournament brings to Hermiston.
“People in our community love this event, because yeah, it shuts down Main Street for the second consecutive weekend, but it brings thousands and thousands of dollars from outside our community into Hermiston,” tournament director Larry Usher said.
This year’s tournament featured 209 teams in 23 divisions, ranging from third-grade boys and girls to adult co-ed and elite men’s open. Usher estimated 75 percent of those teams came from outside Hermiston city limits — some from as far away as Seattle or Lewiston, Idaho.
“We figure if we get 4,000-to-5,000 visitors in a weekend, we probably bring a quarter of a million dollars into our community,” Usher said. “You don’t have to have an economics degree to understand that money is going to trickle back down to the community.
“The hotels are sold out, the gas stations are selling a lot of fuel, all the restaurants are full all weekend long.”
Nakul Butta, owner of Rodeway Inn and Suites, said he saw a “25-30 percent” spike in business over the weekend, thanks to the tournament.
“We didn’t realize the tournament was the upcoming weekend until the Monday before when a bunch of reservations started pouring in,” Butta said.
Darian Martin, waitress at Pheasant Café and Lounge on Main Street, said the establishment saw a similar spike in customers.
“I’d say it was about a 20 percent spike Sunday, and even more than that on Saturday because it was packed all day,” she said. “It brings in a lot of good business for us and other businesses in Hermiston, so I think everyone loves it.”
It’s not just local businesses reaping the benefits of the tournament.
The entry fee each team pays — $120-$160 depending on the age group and division — benefits the youth and high school basketball programs in the area. Usher estimates the money made this year could end up around $10,000.
“If it wasn’t for this tournament, we’re looking at not having that funding or that funding having to come from the taxpayers from the school district, and we would rather have that money come from outside the community,” Usher said.
The tournament has come a long way since its debut in 2006, when 110 teams signed up.
Usher said that’s because “word has gotten out regionally that it’s a pretty good tournament.”
Justin Shamian, 30, of Chewelah, Wash., agreed. He was playing in the tournament for the fifth time, with his team finishing second in the men’s open division after winning it each of the past two years.
“My team keeps coming back because Usher does a nice job putting it on and the organization of it is really good. It’s a good time,” said Shamian, who estimated his team of four plays in about 10 3-on-3 tournaments each year.
Tri-Cities resident Dean Colbray, who played on the men’s open division winning team, pointed out that while it isn’t a Hoopfest — the annual 3-on-3 tournament in Spokane that draws thousands of teams and is considered the biggest 3-on-3 tournament in the world — it is a tournament on the rise.
“It’s on the come-up, it’s not a Hoopfest, but it’s not bottom of the barrel,” Colbray said. “There’s still a few rules-related kinks they need to work on, but they do a good job of taking everyone’s suggestions.”
Usher hopes the tournament will continue to grow.
“If, in three to four years, we have 300 teams in the tournament, that’d be incredible,” he said. “That would require us to expand the tournament, build some more courts, use some more streets in the city. But I’m sure that’s something people in the city would be happy about, because bringing people into the community is never a bad thing.”