Hoopfest hasn't happened since 2019, and it's not just the players who have to shake off the rust, but spectators too. Here's a primer on how to get the most out of the best basketball weekend on earth.
The first thing you need to do is plan in advance. Hoopfest completely takes over downtown Spokane. Streets are closed, and people are everywhere. In years past the event has regularly pulled more than 200,000 players and spectators (as well as those working the event and working at downtown businesses) across its two-day reign downtown. It will be crowded in and around the city center.
On any other weekend, you can simply drive downtown and find parking. Not this weekend. If you're driving, expect to park your car far from the action. Or, take the bus. The STA will be running a "Hoop Loop Shuttle" from the University District in the east, along the southern edge of downtown to the Jefferson Park & Ride in the southwest. Day passes cost just $2.
GET THE APP
Planning shouldn't stop once you've figured out how to get downtown. A helpful tool for navigating Hoopfest is the Hoopfest 2022 mobile app. It allows spectators to track specific teams, court location and game times. If you're heading down to watch family or friends hoop it up, the app is an invaluable resource.
The basketball isn't the only thing you'll need to plan for. Despite what this year's weather may lead you to believe, Hoopfest weekend is often one of the hottest of the year here in Spokane. In fact, if the coronavirus hadn't moved the dates and ultimately canceled last year's event, Hoopfest 2021 would have taken place during a record-breaking heat wave. Forecasts don't show Spokane reaching triple digits during Hoopfest weekend again this year, but as of press time the hottest weather to date this year is expected. Bring sunscreen and plenty of water, and don't forget to reapply the sunscreen throughout the day.
Another aspect to plan for is how you'll spend your time once you've made it down to Hoopfest. How busy do you want to be while you're experiencing the fest?
If you want the event in its full glory, Saturday from midmorning to midafternoon is best. The late afternoon sees people slowly trickle out of downtown, and Sunday afternoon is even slower as more and more teams are eliminated from the tournament. Saturday around noon is peak crowd, but also peak crowd-watching. You can miss the crowds if you come late, but you also miss much of the action.
Now, if you're just here to watch quality basketball, you will want to find a spot by the Elite Division courts. Riverfront Park is the spot to catch rising high school stars, former college athletes, and professional players battle it out. These courts offer spectators a chance to see the freewheeling style of street ball played by some of the most skilled athletes in the region.
Another great way to catch the action is from a restaurant with patio or window seating. Cochinito Taqueria, David's Pizza and O'Doherty's Irish Grille have been go-to spots for me over the years.
Places like those are in the heart of the action, and seats can be hard to come by during peak hours. If you want to grab a bite and beat the crowds, consider areas like Kendall Yards or the west side of downtown, which are within walking distance — but outside of the event itself.
Finally, perhaps the most important thing to remember this year specifically is that this won't be a typical weekend in the city center. There will be more people downtown than at any other time of the year. After two years of living through a pandemic, with closures, limited capacities and distancing as the norm, be prepared for something very different than what we've been used to. Give yourself time, and expect that you won't have too much personal space, while Hoopfesting it up. ♦