Mizzou Arena set to host Norm Stewart Classic for first time
COLUMBIA - This weekend, 47 high school basketball teams from five states will go head-to-head in the 2019 Norm Stewart Classic, being held for the first time in Mizzou Arena.
"This is a premiere location," Executive Director of the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Denny Hunt said. "You know, if you can play at Mizzou Arena and you can bring some teams in from out of state and mix in some of our locals, it makes a great event."
The Classic was previously held at Columbia College's Southwell Complex and has grown significantly since the event's first year in 2007 when only four games were played on a single Saturday.
"The whole event is kind of taking on a life of its own," Hunt said.
The year's Classic tips off on Friday at 5 p.m. with a game between East Buchannan and Clarksville Academy (Tenn.), and for the fourth straight year will feature 48-straight hours of high school basketball.
When event planners decided to change to a 48 hours straight format four years ago, the Classic went from a few local games to a national event with coverage on ESPNU and ESPN3.
And having coverage on an ESPN platform is important with teams coming from as far as Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois in addition to the teams from Missouri.
The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau is one of the Classic's sponsors and is excited to see how many more people will attend this weekend's games after the change in venue.
"They're bringing in more teams [and] they're bringing in teams that come from even farther away than before," Columbia Convention and Visitor Bureau Strategic Communications Manager Megan McConachie said. "With those teams comes coaches, fans, families and so that really ups the number of tourists who will be in town."
McConachie grew up in Columbia and having the Classic in town means a lot to her.
"I grew up going to basketball games where Coach Stewart coached and so I think it’s a really amazing event," she said. "I think it's really valuable for, you know, if you're in high school to come to Columbia and experience getting to play where the Tigers play."
Admission to the Classic costs $5 and fans can stay as long as they want or pay $10 for a pass with unlimited entry into Mizzou Arena during the event.
Fans unable to make it to any of the games can watch the Classic on ESPNU and ESPN3.
A full schedule of the Classic's matchup can be found on their website.