WALLA WALLA -- This year's Peach Basket Classic three-on-three basketball tournament won't involve any traveling. At least as far as the event itself goes.
After months of discussion about whether to move the 18th annual community tournament from First Avenue and Main Street two blocks east, the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation board of directors has decided the event will remain in its historical location.
According to an announcement this morning from the foundation, the decision was made Thursday evening after an hourlong discussion. The decision to keep it at the same location was made in order to "adhere to a long-term view of building relationships downtown."
"The board felt that the foundation represents the interests of the whole community and felt it is best to keep the tournament where it has always been for 17 years," the announcement stated.
Downtown foundation Executive Director Elio Agostini declined to comment further on the board's decision.
The subject has been a source of contention and controversy among merchants and tournament organizers. The YMCA-sponsored and coordinated event shuts down portions of streets for 2 1/2 days. Though the event attracts an estimated 3,000 guests, including participants, downtown the first full weekend in August, it hurts a number of downtown businesses, merchants have said.
Some have said they've witnessed behavioral problems with some participants disrespecting property or using vulgar language to players and spectators standing in doorways and running in and out of businesses to use facilities.
Many have also said their business suffers because participants and spectators are typically focused on the tournament, not shopping. Meanwhile, those who might want to shop downtown during that weekend tend to avoid the area because of a lack of parking and access.
As the issue unfolded, however, it became clear to organizers that there are other sides to the issue, too: Some businesses, especially those that sell food and drinks, benefit from the event. Agostini has said there's an overall benefit also to just having the presence of people re-introduced to downtown.
Randy Grant, executive director of the YMCA, said this morning the organization understands the complaints and will try to offset any problems by having a security person assigned to each block. He said the Y will also be washing windows on the businesses that operate along the event route.
He said the decision by the foundation is a relief. "We're glad it's over with," he said. "At this point, it's so late, we were feeling the pressure of having to move."
He said he believes the community will also ultimately benefit from Peach Basket's location. "We put on this event to serve the community," he said. "When all is said and done a lot of kids and families come to downtown Walla Walla and have a great experience."
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.