TALLMADGE — The city’s recreation center is the host site for the 2019 Toyota National Adult Division I and Division II Wheelchair Basketball Tournament championships this month.
The Division II tournament is set to kick off the back-to-back weekends of play on March 15 through 17. The Division I tournament is March 22 through 24. Both events are open to the public and games begin at 10:30 a.m.
Thirty-two teams from all around the country — including New York, Utah, California, Arizona, Colorado and Illinois — will play, said Adam Bozic, the assistant parks and recreation director for Tallmadge. The NWBA expects more than 400 people to travel to the area to take part in the tournaments.
"This is a big deal," Bozic said. "It’s not very often we get to host teams that are coming from all over the country."
Bozic said the parks and recreation department works with Brittany Wigman of The Sports Alliance of Greater Akron, a division of the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"She would contact us to see if we were interested in hosting various events," Bozic said. This included the wheelchair basketball tournaments.
Tim Fox and Will Waller, board members from the NWBA, came and toured the facility, Bozic said.
"They loved it," he said. "We are one of the few facilities that has four basketball courts. They thought it was a great opportunity to host this tournament here."
Waller, a Hudson resident, stated in a media release that "this is a natural evolution from the local tournaments we’ve hosted."
"We are excited to build upon the relationships we have developed in the local community and fulfill the demand and interest to have more wheelchair basketball programming here," Waller stated. "We want people to know that they are going to see elite athletes competing in both competitions. They will be blown away by the combination of finesse and strength that our athletes use in maneuvering their chairs to gain advantage."
In addition to the tournament, the NWBA will have a clinic for children with disabilities on March 23 at noon.
"Adaptive Sports Program plans to invite many of their athletes," Waller said. "Ohio is one of the few states that has integrated their kids in Interscholastic Athletics, which comprises five districts, including Tallmadge."
Tallmadge City Schools has a wheelchair basketball team that, in both of its seasons, was state runner-up.
The NWBA is in its 70th full season. The organization was originally founded to support veterans returning from World War II. Military veterans continue to make up the core membership of the organization.
The tournaments’ title sponsor is Toyota, and locally they are receiving support from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Clinic. The Sports Alliance of Greater Akron provided assistance in locating the tournament venue, as well as helping to secure hotel rooms for athletes and staff visiting during the event.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC.