AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Hundreds of basketball fans joined by more than 600 hundred basketball teams from around the country, including Canada, will be in the Akron area this weekend for the
This year they have their biggest group of teams ever, and organizers believe it's because of something they call the "LeBron effect."
"Last year we had 522 teams," said Joyce. "Then LeBron comes home and I sold out a month early. And we're actually 619 teams."
The field is so large this year they even have a waiting list to get into the tournament. Check-in starts later Friday evening with more than 1,400 games played throughout the weekend at 46 different schools, rec centers and gyms across Summit County.
Of the 619 teams playing, participants range from second graders to seniors in high school. The economic impact for the city of Akron and surrounding area is estimated between $2.5 million to $4 million.
"I always look forward to this event when our community welcomes hundreds of participants, their families, friends, fans, and spectators," said Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. "We get to showcase our amenities to our visitors, like our world-class art museum, impressive downtown Minor League Baseball stadium, beautiful scenic Cuyahoga Valley National Parks and trails, new and updated Community Learning Centers, along with many other first-rate public venues and local restaurants. And, the influx of activity during this popular weekend has had a large economic impact in our area, infusing over $2.5 million into our local economy in 2014 alone."
Even though LeBron doesn't have much to do with the tournament, other than lending his name, the larger than ever crowd is being called the "LeBron effect."
"With him coming back and all the excitement around him being back home, and as well as the Cavaliers are doing, this is just great for us," said Melvin Blake, a city of Akron employee who is the point person for the games.
LeBron himself has never attended the tournament and there's a fairly good reason why.
"I tell people all the time if he's here, that means the Cavs have -- well in years past -- that the Cavs would have lost and this year the Cavs are playing. So I don't expect him here," explained Joyce.
Weekend passes are available at all game sites and cost $25. Friday only admission is $10 and Championship Sunday only admission is $15. Children 9 and under are free.