Asheville has recently been named as 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 November 25, this year’s event dates have yet to be finalized. All games will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville.
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. Teams expected to participate in the tournament 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 will limit 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,” says 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.
“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 University of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, a three-time national champion and 2007 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Williams was born and raised in Western North Carolina, and he lettered in basketball and baseball while attending Asheville’s T. C. Roberson High. His first coaching job was at Owen High School in Black Mountain.