The site of the Nov. 20-22 Maui Invitational, in which Kansas is a participant, remains undecided at this time, according to KemperLesnik, the organizer of the college men’s basketball showcase event.
Devastating fires three weeks ago ravaged many parts of Lahaina, Maui, which is the annual location for the tourney, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. The fires did not touch the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center, home of the tournament. The Civic Center has been used as a shelter and meeting place in the wake of the fires.
KemperLesnik provided a statement to The Star on Wednesday regarding the status of the tourney:
“Our focus has been and will continue to be on the people of Maui. No decision has been made yet as to the location of this year’s Maui Invitational, which will be played Nov. 20 -22. At the appropriate time, we will meet with Maui officials to discuss where we can best host the event in a safe and respectful manner for residents, players, staff and fans. We know how important the Maui Invitational is to the local community, both emotionally and economically, and we are committed to hosting an event that will celebrate, respect and honor the aloha spirit. Our Tournament ‘ohana (family) extends our deepest condolences to the entire community and will mālama (care for and protect) Maui — now and always.”
KU is slated to play Chaminade in a first-round game on Nov 20. Other teams in the tourney: UCLA, Marquette, Purdue, Syracuse, Tennessee and Gonzaga.
That KemperLesnik statement was also printed by both the Maui News and Spectrum News earlier this week.
Spectrum News reported that it is possible the tourney could be moved to Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Oahu. The building seats 10,300 compared to Lahaina Civic Center’s 2,400.
Sheriff Center manager Rich Sheriff told Spectrum News he has been in contact with the Maui Invitational tournament director.
“We have discussed options to move to the SSC (in Oahu),” Sheriff told Spectrum News. “We are waiting on them (tourney organizers), as they have been notified of the games we currently have scheduled (at University of Hawaii) during that time.”
Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird told Spectrum News he believes the tourney will remain in Hawaii.
“Maui would be the No. 1 option, no doubt,” Bovaird told the news organization. “If the Maui people and the officials want us over there, that’s where we want to be. Not only is it the best place to host the tournament, but we can provide some benefit in a lot of ways for the people that have gone through the devastation. Hopefully we can not only bring some financial support but bring some joy in general, after all they’ve been through. If not, I think we can do a great job of hosting this year on Oahu. The Stan Sheriff could potentially be a site for that.”
According to spectrumlocalnews.com, “if the tournament remains on Maui, options besides Lahaina Civic Center could include the South Maui Community Park Gymnasium in Kihei and War Memorial Gym in Wailuku.”
The Kihei gymnasium is air conditioned and holds 718 fans according to the Maui News and Spectrum News. War Memorial Gym can hold 1,200 fans. It is not air conditioned.
It has been said the tourney could be moved to Las Vegas, where it was held in 2021 because of Covid. It was held in 2020 in Asheville, North Carolina, again because of the pandemic. The tournament has been held at the Lahaina Civic Center since 1986, with the exception of those two seasons.
“Hawaii is our No. 1 through 25 option ... I’m pretty confident that that’s going to happen (in Hawaii),” Bovaird told Spectrum News. “I’d be very surprised if after all the people I’ve talked to, if our president (Lynn Babington) and KemperLesnik decided for some reason to want to go to Vegas. I would say I’m 99% sure it’s going to be in Hawaii, and hopefully a high percentage that we find a good place in Maui.”
KU coach Bill Self said on Aug. 23: “I talked to Dave Odom, who is actually running the tournament. Dave at this point in time doesn’t know exactly what’s going to happen. The government over there … I’m sure the governor and the higher ups will probably determine whether or not if it would be possible (to hold it in Maui) and if it would be best for the island if in fact the teams did come.
“I think if the games are being played next month, you say no (to playing in Maui). Being played around Thanksgiving … we don’t know yet. Dave is confident that tournament (if necessary) would be relocated to a place all the fan bases would still look forward to going and attending. I don’t know where that is.”
“My wish (is) and I’m hopeful it’s best for the people of Maui and the town of Lahaina to bring some tourism there,” Self said. “If in fact it would be best for them, I know our fan base would be all for it to go.”