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Youth basketball tourney income for city: $800,000

Nearly 5,000 boys, girls registered for 2 sessions

CORRECTION RAN SATURDAY (2/26/05)

The dates for a Rochester Community Youth Basketball Association tournament were incorrect on Page 5C Wednesday. The girls tournament is today and Sunday, and the boys division will be March 5-6.

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By Ken Hanson

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kenhanson@postbulletin.com

As a Rochester couple entered a local restaurant one weekend last February, the wife asked why there was such a long line. The husband answered jokingly: "You can blame this one on Kim Hewitt."

And if you're planning to eat out this weekend or next, you'll want to make early reservations.

That's because the Rochester Community Youth Basketball Tournaments that Hewitt has been coordinating the last six years have become simply humongous.

Some 2,688 boys from youth basketball programs in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin -- along with parents, friends and coaches -- will start pouring into town Friday for games Saturday and Sunday. And the scene will be repeated March 5-6, with 2,160 girls in that tournament.

The Rochester Convention &; Visitors Bureau estimates the total income for Rochester hotels and restaurants this year at $800,000.

The tournament has become so popular that many people book their rooms for it a year in advance. A group associated with the Wayzata youth basketball program this year reserved a block of 205 rooms.

"A lot of teams that come from out of town call it 'The Big Weekend,'" Hewitt said.

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The tournament, a fund-raiser for RCYBA that helps hold down league costs and provides scholarships for low-income families, was started in 1978 with 28 boys teams competing. The first coordinator, Doug Hudson, who is the Lourdes High School baseball coach, remains a key organizer -- he schedules all the games.

The size of the tournament has expanded as quality basketball venues have been added, including at Mayo Civic Center, Century High School and University Center Rochester.

Hewitt, a math teacher at John Adams Middle School and a member of the RCYBA board, works primarily with Hudson, Tammy and Glen Melmer, and Al Wick. Hewitt herself spends eight months a year on the tournament.

And she's not exactly sure why.

A 1991 graduate of John Marshall High School who was involved in athletics, she started helping with scorekeeping and other tournament duties when she was a teenager. She took over the chairmanship at age 25.

She does the work because of the good it does for kids, and because of the process and the challenge, she said.

When she first volunteered to be the director six years ago, "Most people thought I must have kids in the program," Hewitt said. "When I told them I didn't, and I said I was 25, they said, 'Are you nuts!'"

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