ASHEVILLE, NC (Sept. 18, 2020) – Asheville is pleased to be named the host city in the mainland move of the 2020 Maui Jim Maui Invitational. The Tournament receives national coverage each year by ESPN and is considered the premier event around the Thanksgiving holiday. With the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) announcement that the 2020-21 college basketball season will start on Nov. 25, this year’s event dates have yet to be finalized. All games will take place at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville.
Teams expected to participate are Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV. The Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission (ABRSC) worked with several collaborative entities in securing the event’s relocation to Asheville amid a worthy consideration set.
Those involved in the Tournament – teams, staff, officials and ESPN media – will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue. The Tournament will follow North Carolina guidelines on mass gatherings.
“We couldn’t be more excited and deeply honored to bring the Maui Jim Maui Invitational here to Asheville,” said Demp Bradford, president of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission. “Asheville’s ability to host this top-level sporting event is a testament to state and local partnerships built on a track record of welcoming and supporting national, and international, competitive events to Buncombe County.”
The Tournament is expected to generate more than $1.1 million in economic impact in Buncombe County, according to Bradford.
In recent years, Asheville has landed such quality athletic competitions as the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas (with both Serena and Venus Williams on the Team USA roster), the Southern Conference and Big South Basketball Championships, iconic outdoor events like Haute Route and Spartan Race, as well as extreme trail races such as the Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge.
ABRSC worked closely with Buncombe County health officials and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan that makes safety a priority for this tournament as well as multiple sporting events that could be hosted in the Asheville area. Those involved and traveling to Asheville for the Tournament will undergo testing throughout the event.
Surrounded by the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi and intersected by “America’s Favorite Scenic Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is steeped in natural history, outdoor adventure and cultural legacies. The city’s backdrop features one million acres of protected wilderness, thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails and George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre legacy, Biltmore Estate. At the heart of Asheville is a vibrant downtown brimming with Art Deco architecture, James Beard chefs, craft breweries and distilleries and an innovative art, music and theater scene.
“Love for athletics runs strong in these mountains,” said Chris Cavanaugh, interim executive of Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Asheville is thrilled to share the national spotlight offered by high-caliber events like the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. These events enrich and enliven our community on many levels as an opportunity to celebrate this compelling region and its sporting history.”
The Tournament will result in a homecoming for North Carolina coach Roy Williams, a three-time national champion and 2007 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame who was born and raised in Western North Carolina. In high school, Williams lettered in basketball and baseball at Asheville’s T. C. Roberson. His first coaching job was at Charles D. Owen High School in nearby Black Mountain.
About the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission
The mission of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission is to identify and attract sports events and related meetings to enhance the health, wellness and quality of life for area residents and sports enthusiasts and to generate a positive economic impact by promoting the region as a recognized sporting destination.
About Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Explore Asheville works under the oversight of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to execute an extensive strategic marketing and sales program that inspires visitation and group meetings and travel while showcasing more than 1,300 business. More than 4 million overnight visitors contribute to annual tourism expenditures of 2.2 billion in Buncombe County, yielding an economic impact of $3.3 billion. Explore Asheville also provides support on the Tourism Product Development Fund and connects partners to free marketing opportunities that appeal to visitors.
About the Maui Jim Maui Invitational
In December 1982, then No. 1 ranked Virginia, led by National College Player of the Year Ralph Sampson, played little-known NAIA Chaminade University in Honolulu while on the way back from a trip to Tokyo. The Silverswords stunned Virginia 77-72 in what is recognized as the greatest upset in college basketball history. Two years later, in 1984, Chaminade University hosted the first Maui Jim Maui Invitational and it has proven to be the premier early-season college basketball tournament for 36 years running. Each year, the Maui Jim Maui Invitational attracts the top programs, best-known coaches and most outstanding players to compete in an exciting atmosphere that sets the tone for the college basketball season.
About Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville
Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville (HCCA) and its ExploreAsheville.com Arena have hosted a diverse variety of events that reflect the creativity, uniqueness, and artistry that Asheville, N.C., and Western North Carolina is known for primarily. In recent years, the facility has hosted world-class sporting events such as NBA Preseason Games, two Fed Cup by BNP Paribas ties and the annual Men’s and Women’s Southern Conference Basketball Championships.