HONOLULU (AP) -- The Maui Invitational basketball tournament, a three-day bonanza of 12 college games, generated $11.5 million in visitor spending at the island destination in November, a $3.4 million jump over 2011, tourney organizers said Tuesday.
The early-season basketball tournament featured eight teams, including then-No. 9 North Carolina along with Marquette, Texas, Mississippi State, USC and Division II host team Chaminade. Illinois beat Butler 78-61 in the tournament's title game.
The event held in a cozy 2,500-seat gym is considered an early-season test for teams looking to contend in the NCAA tournament. The Lahaina Civic Center, run by Maui County with a scoreboard that says only "Home" and "Guest," is a short drive from the resort area of Kaanapali Beach on Maui's western shores.
Nearly 5,000 people participated in and attended the tournament, and the tournament itself directly spent more than $1 million with local businesses, including merchandisers, service companies and equipment providers, tournament officials said.
Executive Director Terryl Vencl of the Maui Visitors Bureau said the invitational boosted business for nearby hotels and restaurants.
"We are extremely pleased with the increased economic impact that the tournament produced this past year," Vencl said. "Our residents and businesses take pride in extending the aloha spirit and welcoming thousands of visitors to the island each year to enjoy the tournament and experience the wonderful scenery, people and culture."
Next year's tournament features current No. 1 Gonzaga, along with Arkansas, California, Dayton, Baylor, Minnesota and Syracuse. Chaminade hosts the tournament each year, which is built on the small Honolulu school's famous upset of Virginia in 1982.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia
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