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Loss of March Class A basketball tournament a blow to Butte's economy

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Posted at 7:10 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 09:10:29-05

BUTTE — The Montana High School Association’s decision to move next month’s Class A boys and girls basketball tournament out of Butte next month is a tough loss for the Mining City.

“To lose that tournament for the community and for the city of Butte as a whole is very disappointing,” said Butte Civic Center Manager Bill Melvin.

The four-day tournament at the Butte Civic Center set to begin March 10 would have brought 16 teams, their staff and families to Butte. This would have benefited the hotel and restaurant businesses. It’s estimated that each person spends more than $80 a day during the tournament.

“It’s nice business, it’s business in the middle of March when you typically wouldn’t have a lot of hotel nights,” said Melvin.

The Butte Health Department would only allow two tickets per player participating in the tournament to be sold for the event at the Civic Center due to Covid-19 precautions. The high school association opted last week to move the tournament to Great Falls.

“The frustrating thing about this whole deal is you can leave here and go 150 miles north of here to Cascade County and you can bring 500 people in per team, which the simple math is 500 per team times 16, that’s 8,000 people in your community and that’s ok, so the playing field isn’t fair,” said Melvin.

Melvin said he doesn’t fault the health department’s mandates that are in place to try to keep the community safe during this pandemic and he adds that he is confident the community will bounce back.

“And if the health department tells me that it’s not safe to bring a bunch of people into my facility, heaven forbid that people would get sick and leave here on a super spreader or something, we have to go along with their policies,” said Melvin.

The Civic Center has plans for more large events this year it hopes will bring dollars to the community.