By Jordan Forte
I had the pleasure of being in the Montego Bay Convention Centre last weekend to witness the historic Jamaica Classic NCAA basketball tournament.
It was the first time NCAA basketball was being played on Jamaican soil, and the encouraging thing is that organizers are planning to make this an annual event to run for at least another ten years.
For years the Jamaican Government and other stakeholders have talked a good talk about making the country a destination for sports tourism, but it's hard to think of any one event that has been put on to make this a reality.
With the NCAA expanding basketball into the Caribbean with tournaments like The Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas and Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica is primed to cash in on some of the huge financial benefits.
The Bahamas reportedly rakes in US$10 million with their tournament, while St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands brings in around $2 million, so we're talking some serious cash.
What the government now needs to do is to ensure all stakeholders are on board to make sure that organizers are pleased with the tournament and want to extend it even beyond the initial 10 year plan. By this I mean that the hotels need to understand that hundreds or possibly thousands of visitors will be coming in and make preparations to provide the best accommodation.
The owners and operators of the Montego Bay Convention Centre need to ensure the venue maintains its current high standard, and the right promotion needs to be put into the tournament to get local fans to turn out in their numbers to support it, as full stands make for better television viewing.
There’s no doubt that the sand, sun and sea in Montego Bay provide the perfect destination for such a tournament and I believe Jamaica has a strong enough basketball following to give it the required support.
Once the tournament continues to grow in stature, the government will fatten its coffers and local basketball will benefit as a result.
Jordan Forte is a sports reporter with the RJRGleaner Group