When sports teams come to town for tournaments, restaurants and hotels benefit, along with other local attractions. A homeschool basketball tournament the first weekend of January brought more than 300 athletes and their families in to spend money in Pratt.
Before the winter blast hit and before cleanup from prior ice blast took over life in Pratt, a homeschool basketball tournament slid quietly into city limits the first weekend of January and left several businesses still smiling weeks later about the economic boost they received.
"We absolutely loved it," said Rick's Restaurant owner Marcia Stahl. "We didn't get any warning but it was great to get inundated with customers that Saturday. We were completely packed."
Twenty-nine homeschool basketball teams and their families descended on the city January 5, 6 and 7, with teams in several divisions competing for medals and bragging rights. More than 320 players were involved, coming from Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma, and spending their money and time not only at several gyms around town, but also at hotels, restaurants and stores. The tournament was hosted by the local homeschool group Southern Kansas Thunder.
At the Hampton Inn near Highway 61 almost all rooms in the 80-bed hotel were booked out for the weekend.
"It was a great crowd," said assistant manager Brooke Williams. "There were a lot of families with kids here but they were all pretty well-behaved and respectful. They went to bed at specific times and weren't a problem at all. It was great to have them all here."
Also enjoying the influx of activity created by tournament participants and their families was host facility Blythe Family Fitness at 219 W. 5th Street.
"We've been hosting this tournament for years," said Blythe spokesperson Tammie Sanko. "They come in every year and pay a court fee per game. We love having them because it gives us great exposure on a large scale. The participants are always surprised we have such a large facility here in Pratt. It let's them know what we have here and there are always future references and more business that comes out of it."
According to Blythe owner Kristina Kaufman, special groups like the homeschool basketball union get a special booking rate from Pratt hotels simply by mentioning they are involved with the tournament at Blythe.
"We work together to make sure to spread around the extra business coming into town," she said. "Shelly at Comfort Inn and Best Western goes above and beyond to make sure all the people coming to town are taken care of."
One homeschool basketball parent from Colorado echoed those statements when commenting about their family experience in Pratt.
"We've gone to a lot of basketball tournaments before but had never been here," said Larry Koornneef, Denver, Colorado. "Pratt's hospitality was absolutely phenominal. There was a family whose car broke down and not only did one of the Blythe officials loan them a car, they helped arrange for special service on Saturday so they could get it fixed before time to head home. The places we ate, the hotel we stayed, everyone was so nice. We will definitely come here again."
Kaufman said there would be other tournaments coming to town in the future, providing more opportunities for Pratt to put their best foot forward.
"Everyone benefits when we put out the welcome mat," she said. "For a small town we have a lot to offer and people coming in appreciate that."
Stahl said her restaurant also appreciated the added business events like that on the first weekend of January brought.
"Even though we didn't have warning there were enough burgers and chicken-fried steaks to go around," she said. "My workers were tired, but it was worth it."
Kaufman said club volleyball girls would be in town this coming weekend for tournament play at Blythe, and a large gymnastics meet that will bring over 350 competitors to Pratt is scheduled for March 4 and 5.
Other facilities used by the homeschool group in addition to the two gyms at Blythe were at the Liberty Middle School and Skyline Schools. There were two divisions of play for junior high and high school age girls and boys. The hometown group Southern Kansas Thunder won the girls high school division.