Governor says 2023 Maui Invitational will likely relocate amid wildfire response

As Maui aims to rebuild its economy following the Lahaina wildfires disaster, it may be losing one of the nation's premier sporting events.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 5:00 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Maui aims to rebuild its economy following the Lahaina wildfire disaster, the county may be losing one of the nation’s premier sporting events.

A final decision has not been made yet, but Gov. Josh Green told HNN’s “Spotlight Now” on Tuesday this year’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational college basketball tournament will likely be moved to Oahu.

It’s typically played at the Lahaina Civic Center, which was not affected by the fires but is being used for disaster assistance and response efforts.

“It does appear that we don’t have an adequate facility to have the Maui Invitational this year,” Green said, adding it will likely be moved to the Stan Sheriff Center.

“And I say that with a heavy heart because it would be wonderful to have the tournament on Maui.”

For nearly 40 years, the Lahaina Civic Center has been home to the Maui Invitational, one of the country’s top basketball tournaments annually featuring powerhouse programs.

It’s slated for Thanksgiving week, which will be three months after the deadly wildfires disaster.

As head of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, Mufi Hannemann has been pushing for the event to remain on Maui at potentially another venue.

But he said he understands if it needs to be moved for a year.

He added that he’s hopeful it stays in Hawaii and isn’t relocated out of state as it was for two years during the COVID pandemic.

“If we can’t keep it on Maui, every effort should be made to keep it on Oahu,” Hannemann said.

“The last thing we want to see is have this classic go to Las Vegas or North Carolina and they call it the Maui classic. Come on, that’s not the real deal.”

The Maui Invitational typically generates at least $16 million for the state in visitor spending.

That revenue along with national television exposure essentially acts as a days-long commercial for the islands.

Long-term, Hannemann says sports will be key in Maui’s rebuild.

“There is a need to try to ramp up tourism there and put people back to work,” Hannemann said. “Sports tourism would help keep it going and maintaining that momentum going forward.”

Momentum that can start to pick up in January when the PGA tees off its 2024 season with the Sentry Tournament at Kapalua.

“Sports wise, like the golf tournament, I’ve told them to go forward,” Green said.

“Go forward because those guys tend to give more money than even the NFL or Major League Baseball to society. I want those resources for the people that are suffering. I want to try and bring some of their lives back and make them whole.”

The governor is hoping Lahaina will be ready to host the invitational in November 2024.

A final decision from tournament organizers is expected in the coming days.