Southeast Alaska villages will be mostly deserted this week, with hundreds of basketball fans filling the Juneau-Douglas High School gym for the Juneau Lions Club's 61st annual Gold Medal Basketball tournament.
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Hotels were filling up as well, and local restaurants looked forward to welcoming an influx of guests after the long, tourist-void winter.
The seven-day tourney tips off at 10 a.m. today when the Southeast Warriors meet Metlakatla in the Legendary C bracket.
Forty-five more games will be played, including the tournament final in Saturday's 8 p.m. B bracket championship.
Hoonah's fans are renowned for packing the JDHS gym during the village's game. How many will show up this year?
Today's trivia question: In 1979, this future state representative and senator averaged 44.16 points in six A bracket games and scored 60 points in one contest against Sitka American Legion. What's his name and what team was he playing for that year?
The prize: The first person to correctly answer will win free lunch for one at the Breakwater Inn. Call the Empire's Gold Medal trivia hotline, 523-2268, before 5 p.m. today. Please leave your name and a telephone number.
"I'd say half the town at least, if not more," said Jerry Medina, city administrator in Hoonah. "It's going to be a ghost town over here. There's a ferry (Friday) afternoon, and I'm sure it's going to be packed."
The tournament looks a little bit different this year. The Legendary C bracket, once limited to those 35 and over, has been expanded to include all players 32 and older. Additionally, a new Masters' bracket is in place for those 41 and over.
The Intermediate (18-23), women's and Mighty B divisions have the same look.
Besides C, the eight-team Mighty B (18 and over) division also begins today. B opens with Angoon against Metlakatla at 11:30 a.m.
The four-team Master's tournament starts at 11:30 a.m. Monday, when Klawock plays Angoon. Juneau Green takes on Yakutat at 2:30 p.m.
The four-team women's bracket begins play Monday, and the four-team Intermediate division starts Wednesday.
In 1999, the McDowell Group polling organization determined that Gold Medal brings approximately $2 million into Juneau's economy.
Hotels are booked through the week. Each year, at least 25 percent of the Gold Medal guests at the Breakwater Inn, across the street from the gym, make a reservation for the next year's tournament when they check out.
"We were full up until (Friday)," said Kevin See, the Breakwater's general manager. "A group of five rooms canceled on us. I'm sure we'll sell them out in no time."
Korry Keeker can be reached at email@example.com.