Plainly put, the Big Atlantic Classic is a big deal for our area.
Every winter for the past two decades, the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center has been brimming with seven full days of activities, starting out with a banquet and finishing off with championship-caliber high school basketball.
The banquet has featured many nationally known names from the world of sports, each giving the youngsters in attendance a positive, motivational message.
And, often, an autograph to commemorate the event.
The Big Atlantic Classic, which concluded its 2013 run Saturday, annually attracts participants from all over the state and, occasionally, top teams from out-of-state.
It features a great mix of local schools too, which ensures those teams some great exposure and incredible competition.
It allows fans to come out and see their favorite schools play in the area’s premier hoops venue.
Even the younger kids get involved, as local elementary and junior high teams get to pound it out on the hardwood in front of a much larger than usual band of spectators.
The Classic also fills local hotel rooms and restaurants, bringing a much-needed economic boost to the region when the out-of-area teams, their parents and fans hit town.
On top of the roundball action and the boon to area businesses, many student-athletes return home with help toward their college plans.
A member from each participating high school’s basketball team and cheerleading squad receives a scholarship on the final day of competition.
In the last 19 years, $528,000 in scholarships have been awarded to student-athletes and $1,115,000 in guarantees have been distributed to participating schools directly to their athletic budgets, not including travel expenses.
Talk about a win-win situation.
The benefits of hosting this event in Beckley are numerous.
Our area has many things to be proud of. But it should not be overlooked that the Big Atlantic Classic has accomplished yet another slam dunk with its 2013 tournament.
It takes a cast of many sponsors, workers and volunteers to pull off this spectacular showcase, so we tip our cap to those who again made the Big Atlantic Classic possible for hundreds of children.