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Youth movement hits Hays -- again -- this weekend

3/6/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Both the former and current basketball arenas at Fort Hays State University will be buzzing with statewide events Saturday, bringing hundreds of visitors to Hays. But neither event will be basketball-oriented.

However, gyms at three different locations will have plenty of basketball Saturday and Sunday with more than 50 teams competing in the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters youth basketball tournament.

The Sunflower Spelling Bee, a national-qualifying event, is set to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

That venue formerly was known as Sheridan Coliseum, home of Tiger basketball teams before the opening of a new, sprawling arena across Big Creek in 1973 -- Gross Memorial Coliseum.

More than a thousand youth wrestlers and their fans will converge Saturday on GMC for the annual Western Kansas Youth Wrestling Classic. Starting time is 8:30 a.m.

It will mark the second of four consecutive weeks Hays sponsors large events on the FHSU campus.

Last weekend was the Class 3-2-1A state high school wrestling tournament at GMC. Next week will be the Class 1A, Division II state high school basketball tournament.

And more than a thousand athletes and their fans will be in town March 20 to 22 for the 44th annual Kansas Special Olympics Basketball and Cheerleading Tournament.

"We have our own little March Madness," Jana Jordan said in reference to the term used for the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments each spring. "We go crazy here in March."

Jordan, direction of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, said obviously, hotels are near capacity during this time of year.

Even the one-day events feature some out-of-town guests who come to Hays the night before their event.

"When they have a break, people get out and wander around and go through town," she said. "It's very good for all of our businesses."

Hays is the final destination on the advancement ladder for most of those events. But not for this weekend's two events on campus.

Hays' youth wrestling tourney is one of numerous regular-season meets; the state meet is March 29 to 30 in Topeka.

The winner of Saturday's spelling bee competition will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington the last week of May.