GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - High school hoops during the holidays is a timeless tradition, but one local tournament had to evolve for the safety of its participants and fans.
The 38th annual Adidas Holiday Classic began with a bang on Monday, but the climbing number of COVID-19 cases put the tournament in jeopardy.
”We felt like we had to take some extreme measures just so we could host the tournament,” said Gulfport Athletic Director Bryan Caldwell.
That means after every game fans must leave not only the stands but the entire gym. With the gym now empty, district employees begin disinfecting the bleachers, benches and locker rooms. Many fans are just thankful the district found a way to host the tournament safely.
”I think it is a good idea, man, because it keeps the players safe, keeps the coaching staff and everyone who works in the place safe, ad the players. I think it’s the best thing to do,” said Kiki Ford.
Some of those who have seen the effects of COVID-19 firsthand were glad to see the district step up with additional safety precautions of their own.
”It is definitely nothing to play with. This is a serious matter and this is what they should do. I sanitize on my job each and every day and I think they should do the same here, and I truly respect it,” said Villiman Magee.
The extra safety efforts are in place on top of Gov. Tate Reeves’ latest executive order, which limits attendance to 250 attendees per game, While nowhere near the crowd they’re used to welcoming in, many were just glad the district found a way to host the tournament.
”This is a tradition. I mean, people have been coming to this tournament since the early ’80s. It’s part of what you do between Christmas and New Years’ if you’re a basketball fan,” Caldwell said.
The tournament runs through Wednesday, with multiple games set for the next two days.