The view was different, but the return of Hoops on the River on Saturday brought some familiar faces to downtown Vancouver.
The three-on-three basketball tournament included many teams that had been here before and jumped at the chance to participate again after the event’s one-year hiatus.
“It’s good to have it back,” said Vancouver resident Kalib Locke, moments after a comfortable victory in his team’s first game.
Locke, Roman Rios of Portland and Milwaukie resident Rafe Vaughn had all participated in Hoops on the River in the past. Their team, Make It Drizzle, competed in the men’s competitive division this year — a step below the “elite” open division.
The event, created as a fundraiser for Share House, used to be staged next to the Columbia River at Vancouver Landing. When the tournament grew too big for the charity to manage, it transferred to the One Team Kids Foundation, a group that serves underprivileged children. Hoops on the River took a year off in 2013 during the transition. It returned this year at Esther Short Park, and now benefits both Share House and the One Team Kids Foundation.
Organizers set up nearly two dozen hoops along Eighth and Columbia streets around the park. A championship court and bleachers covered part of Propstra Square.
While participation was down this year — about 165 teams entered, compared to as many as 270 in the past — more spectators seemed to find their way to the action, said Don Aguilera, a One Team Kids Foundation director who helped organize the tournament.
“It’s the biggest in regards to attendance,” Aguilera said. “And I think the park invites that.”
A wide range of vendors, free fitness classes in the park and the nearby Vancouver Farmers Market likely boosted the crowd size. The tournament itself also included a three-point shoot-out and a slam dunk contest. Competition will wrap up with championship games today.
Organizers were happy with the new location and the family-friendly environment in fostered, Aguilera said. With the support of the city of Vancouver and other partners, they expect Hoops on the River to get bigger in the very near future, he said.
“Our goal is, in two years, to double,” Aguilera said. “We have a good gut feeling that this is going to naturally grow.”
Rios, of the team Make It Drizzle, is among those who will likely be back.
“I really enjoy it,” Rios said. “I’ve done it every year.”