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November Madness

Photo Courtesy:  Duke University

If you run into some blue-paint-covered, chest-pounding, decibel-breaking fellows in Lahaina later this month, don’t be alarmed.

Every year in November, when the EA Sports Maui Invitational gets under way, the college basketball world springboards into a new season, and Lahaina jumpstarts its holiday tourism season. This year, the tournament features powerhouse Duke University and the team’s most rabid fans, known as the Cameron Crazies.

And that’s good news. According to tournament officials, roughly 4,500 out-of-state visitors traveled to Maui for last year’s event. That included players, officials, media, sponsors and fans, who all pumped $8.5 million into the local economy. In the tournament’s 24-year history, basketball faithful have left behind approximately $120 million on the island.

“For almost a quarter century, Maui has significantly benefited from this event, not only on the economic front but also from an exposure standpoint,” says Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau. “The [tournament] annually provides an ideal platform on which Maui and its culture shine.”

The 24th tournament features, in addition to Duke, Arizona State, Illinois, Louisiana State, Marquette, Oklahoma State and Princeton along with the local host university, Chaminade. As far as exposure? All 12 tournament games will be shown across the country to an estimated 7 million television viewers on ESPN. Then, for diehard fans, the tourney, which runs Nov. 19-21, in the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center, a rare intimate setting to see such big-time university talent compete.
And to see how crazy their fans get.

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Hawaii Business,November