For the next few days, Rockford will have its own March Madness. More than 100 boys and girls middle school basketball teams will take the courts at East High School and the UW Health Sports Factory for the Illinois State Middle School Basketball Championship.
"We have a number of teams from the Rockford," says tournament director Eric Stern. "I would say 90% of the teams coming in, most are from the Chicagoland area but we have teams that are driving five, six, almost seven hours from the southernmost part of the state."
This is the first year the tournament is happening in the state. Organizers say choosing Rockford as the host city was an easy choice.
"The facilities in Rockford are second to none, not only in the state, but in the country," says Stern. "We travel around the country and see these facilities. These are as good as it gets so we're thrilled to be here."
The Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the tournament will bring in around 4,000 visitors and could generate roughly $180,000 for local businesses.
"It's pretty significant event," says RACVB Director of Sports Development Nick Povalitis. "It's one of the larger events we've had at the sports factory. Last week we had a 100 team volleyball tournament so it's good back to back weekends. So it's definitely on the economy through restaurants, sites and attractions, sites and hotels, shopping, gasoline. It's all getting impacted."