If you’ve spent more than one winter in Seaside, you’ve likely witnessed the droves of cars that show up in Seaside on weekends between January and early March. Drive your car along Highway 101, past Broadway Middle School and Seaside High, and you’ll see both parking lots filled with Chevrolet Suburbans and SUVs from Washington, Oregon and even Idaho.
These cars and their occupants represent the families, coaches, and players from the nearly 500 teams that come to Oregon’s North Coast each year for Pacific Basketball League Tournaments. It’s a staggering number when you think about it. Seven weekends, as many as 96 teams (and support crews) per week and a nearly built-in guarantee that local hotels, shops and restaurants will have a great weekend.
Now running tournaments for the 25th year in Seaside, I was interested about the history of this wildly successful venture, so I spoke to PBL Director Kerri Januik by phone last week to learn how it all got started. Surprisingly, it came because of a new found need in our community. With the expansion of Broadway Middle School in the early 1990s, sixth-graders from Cannon Beach, Seaside and Gearhart would move to the expanded school. This move meant fifth and sixth grade athletic teams, which once closely mirrored the middle- and high-school’s year-round programs — were planning to be eliminated. Larry Elliott, Seaside High basketball coach at the time, was particularly concerned about developing future Gulls and keeping sports a part of their lives.
Januik and her husband, Frank, were still fairly new to the area and both were already involved in sports. Frank was a phys ed teacher and local coach, while Kerri was coaching eighth-grade girls basketball and teaching classes with her fitness management degree. According to Januik, a local group that included teachers and business leaders got together to discuss the concept of running a few tournaments. But they desired a leader. “They’re all teachers, busy and doing their thing,” remembers Januik. “And everyone turned their head and looked at me.”
Without a full-time job at the time, and the support of Frank, they decided to give it a try. A nonprofit was established and Januik was named as the paid director.
“Our goal was to try to get about 16 teams each tournament (that first year)” said Januik. They tried some tournaments that first fall of 1993, but quickly realized that was simply too early in the season. With Portland schools also slashing sports from program budgets, there was a true need for tournaments like the ones they had developed, and more teams started doing club type sports. This past weekend, 94 teams participated from grades five-through-eight. Some of the tournaments include fourth grade but all cap out at the eighth-grade level. Januik told me they’ve had as many as 108 teams.
It’s not just Seaside that benefits from the influx of hoops teams. “In the ’90s, we had a few big tournaments where we started to use Camp Rilea and Warrenton schools,” said Januik. “It’s probably been in the last seven years that we’ve partnered with Astoria.”
And it’s not just gymnasiums (up to eight gyms with 12 teams per site) and cash registers in the communities that balloon on Saturdays and Sundays. Januik also partners with the school programs (not just sports) in Seaside, Astoria and Warrenton.
“It’s a huge win-win,” said Januik. “They (the kids and coaches) want to do it, and I need somebody to do it. It’s a great fundraising opportunity for all these kids when budgets have been cut for different activities.” The groups work the gym, keep score and run the game clock, with coaches and teachers supervising the efforts. Each weekend, these efforts result in money going towards a plethora of school programs.
Teams have arrived all the way from Alaska and California for the tournaments and inquiries have come from as far as Hawaii. Much of it, the result of a group of community leaders realizing a need for its children.
“It’s been a good thing for everybody,” Januik told me as we wrapped up our conversation. “You know, it’s a good thing for me and a good thing for my family. I could be a stay-at-home mom (to her three children). They got to be a part of it on the playing side and also on the working side of it later in life, and it’s good for the community. It’s good for our teams. I just think there’s really nothing bad about it and it has been a real blessing.”
Have a thought or a question about tourism in Seaside, or maybe an idea for a future column? Drop me an email at email@example.com. Jon Rahl is the Director of Tourism for the Seaside Visitors Bureau and Assistant General Manager of the Seaside Civic & Convention Center.