The annual Boardwalk Basketball Classic, held Christmas week at the Wildwoods Convention Center, is about much more than high school basketball.
In addition to being a source of community pride, the five-day tournament is a boon to businesses in the otherwise quiet offseason and is a boost to local high school students who receive college scholarships from its proceeds.
“The most important part is the (funds) allow some young boys and girls the opportunity to go to college,” said Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., the tournament director. “And it’s about the camaraderie. All volunteers run this. No one makes a dime.”
About $325,000 in scholarships have been handed out to graduates of Wildwood High School and Wildwood Catholic High School since the tournament began in 1997. School Superintendent Dennis Anderson said his school’s students receive about $10,000 a year in scholarships as a result of the tournament.
“Our parents are grateful. Our students are grateful,” he said. “It’s money they wouldn’t otherwise have or have access to.”
Anderson credited the volunteer nature of the event — many students are among the volunteers — with making the tournament an important part of the island community.
“It’s amazing how giving our island is,” he said.
Jodie DiEduardo, senior vice president and branch administrator of Crest Savings Bank, said the tournament is “huge” for local business.
“We’re putting people in restaurants,” she said. “Some of the teams spend a night or two at the motels.”
Troiano said no studies have been conducted to determine the exact economic impact of the tournament, which draws about 20,000 people. Between 60 and 70 teams take part in the event from across the Mid-Atlantic region.
The tournament’s final game, for instance, is between St. Anthony High School of Jersey City and Camden High School, a game expected to draw a sellout crowd in a hall that can seat about 7,000 people.
Money is made from corporate sponsorships, admission fees and concession sales.
Brendan Sciarra, owner of the Dogtooth Bar & Grill in Wildwood, said the tournament is a boost as the year comes to an end.
“It’s very helpful, especially during the offseason,” he said.
Tournament visitors fill much of the 100-plus-seat restaurant at a time when the town is so quiet most traffic lights are turned to blinking yellow.
“We’ll get business from it all week,” Sciarra said.
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