Keeping Peach Basket Classic downtown a good move

This year's 3-on-3 tournament had a record number of teams and ran very smoothly. It was a success in several ways.

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The YMCA Peach Basket Classic, which for the 18th straight year transformed downtown Walla Walla into a street basketball mecca, was a great success this year.

But this year's tourney wasn't a winner only because it drew a record a record 312 teams with well over 1,200 participants. No, this year's tournament was fantastic because the people organizing the event did an incredible job of taking action to try to make it a positive experience for players, fans and downtown merchants.

Sure, there was a probably a few hiccups along the way, but not reports of major problems.

That's a tremendous achievement given the cloud of controversy that hung over the Peach Basket Classic this year.

Some downtown business owners were not thrilled with the tournament, which is centered at First Avenue and Main Street -- the heart of downtown. They felt the huge crowds and the lack of parking spaces had become barriers to shopping.

It was for that reason that the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation jumped in and tried to move the tournament a few blocks to the east.

We, along with a great many people in town, didn't think that was wise as it would have ruined the ambience. Playing basketball in the heart of Walla Walla -- particularly at Center Court at First Avenue and and Main Street -- is special.

Ultimately, the decision was made not to move the tournament.

And tournament officials addressed those concerns as best they could.

What tournament organizers focused on was trying to make sure there was access to business. One thing that was done was to recruit the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls (roller derby team) to provide volunteers to keep the business entrances clear and pick up trash.

The Roller Girls (and a few boys who pitched in) did an outstanding job.

Although there was a record number of Peach Basket participants, which likely drew a record number of fans, it was relatively easy to walk around downtown.

It's difficult to say whether the efforts boosted business for folks beyond what it normally would be on Peach weekend, but few problems were reported.

Ultimately, the extra effort resulted in a great tournament for players and fans.

And those who were visiting Walla Walla will leave the city with good feelings and a desire to return another time. That will be nothing but good for downtown Walla Walla and its merchants in the future.

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