Girls holiday tournament in jeopardy of ending

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some of the area's top high school girls basketball teams have gathered for a tournament at the Show Me Center just before Christmas every year since 1996.

There will be a 15th year of the eight-team event, set for Dec. 20 through 22, but tournament director Mark Ruark said that will be the end of things if a new corporate sponsor is not found.

Saint Francis Medical Center was the corporate sponsor the past five years after HealthSouth held that distinction for the first nine years of the tournament.

Ruark said Saint Francis Medical Center officials notified him several months ago that they were ending their association with the tournament.

"The economy has affected everything. Sponsoring a tournament is not cheap," Ruark said. "Saint Francis gave us good advance notice, in February. We had some good leads on possible sponsors but nothing came through.

"We're definitely having it this year. It will help a lot if we could find a sponsor. But if we don't find a sponsor then that will be the end of the tournament, which would be a shame."

Unlike the big area holiday boys basketball event, the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament that draws big crowds to the Show Me Center, the girls tourney does not draw nearly as well so it can't support itself, Ruark said.

"We get nice crowds but not the crowds like for the boys tournament, which is why we need a corporate sponsor," Ruark said. "I hope we can keep it going. It's the one time you get to showcase girls basketball in this area.

"Being a former girls basketball coach [at Central], I have a soft spot in my heart. It's a great opportunity for all the coaches and players to compete on the Show Me Center floor."

If a corporate sponsor is not found in time for this year's tournament, Ruark said it simply will be called the Show Me Center Holiday Classic.

Anyone interested in tournament sponsorship should call Ruark at (636) 933-6900.

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