EVERETT — The grandstand and railings which surrounded Center Court at the intersection of Colby and Hewitt were packed with engaged spectators Sunday afternoon. The wisecracking MC provided running commentary over the sound of musical beats as the Elite Division championship game took place. Fans snacked on treats provided by the array of food trucks while some of the area’s best basketball players took their game out of the gym and onto the blacktop.
All-in-all, not a bad way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.
“It’s amazing,” said Kiante Woods, who starred for the Elite Division champs MUV Elite. “I’m really thankful they were able to do this for the city of Everett.”
And the goal is to make sure it happens again. Regularly.
The inaugural Everett 3on3 street basketball tournament took place last Saturday and Sunday on the streets of downtown Everett, and the organizers were encouraged with the way the community turned out for the first edition.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Rick Steltenpohl, who along with Aaron Magner organized the event. “Being in downtown it really is magical. Everyone we’ve worked with from the City of Everett to Snohomish County to the (Snohomish County Tourism Promotion Area) to the sponsors have been very welcoming, very energetic. We love this city, it’s been a really fun event.”
Steltenpohl and Magner are former executives with Hoopfest, the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament which annually draws thousands of players to the streets of downtown Spokane. The hope is that the Everett 3on3 can become something similar.
The inaugural Everett 3on3 drew 200 teams with four players apiece, split into 29 divisions based on age, gender and ability. They played games on 28 half-courts set up along Colby and Wetmore Avenues. Sunday morning’s slam dunk contest featured professional dunkers flown in from across the west, with Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin serving as one of the judges.
“We are planning on having a debrief sometime this week with the event producers, but overall I think the tournament was fantastic,” City of Everett communications and marketing manager Julio Cortes said in an email. “Downtown Everett was packed with over 200 teams and hundreds of spectators. We have received emails and messages from people who were in Everett for the first time and loved the City. Our businesses were full and from what I saw everyone was enjoying themselves.”
The participation numbers were on the lower end of what organizers were hoping. When the event was announced in March Steltenpohl said they were hoping to get 400 teams to register. But Steltenpohl said 200 was a reasonable start.
“Two-hundred was kind of our litmus test to see if it was something that the community wanted,” Steltenpohl said. “Numbers are numbers, but 200 was something we felt happy about coming into it. But feeling the energy of the streets and crowd, you might think there were 300 or 400 teams because within our footprint there’s so much energy.”
So will the Everett 3on3 be back again next year for a second edition? While no one was definitive, the language used suggested it’s a strong possibility.
“I think next year will be significantly bigger,” Steltenpohl said. “People are aware of it more now, and as you know getting awareness sometimes takes time. We think the people who have been here this weekend, the downtown community, the excitement of the players and community, and what a welcoming city Everett has been, I think it’s something that’s going to be a staple in the community and continue to grow.
“We’d love to be back for a long time.”
Said Cortes: “We plan on working with the event producers to bring the tournament back next year and make it even bigger and better.”
And would the players be back, too?
“For sure,” Woods said when asked if he’d return to defend his title. “I have to run it back.”
This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Julio Cortes’ name.