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The Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce will kick off basketball season by hosting the Nebraska Invitational Tournament in Beatrice on Saturday.

It's a one-day tournament for boys and girls grades third through eighth and it will take place in gyms throughout Beatrice.

The tournament is taking the place of the annual Hoopla Tournament, which has been played in February for several years.

"It's just something we are trying out," said Chamber Tourism Director Nolan Fast. "We wanted to do something different, so we thought we'd do a season opener tournament where all the teams will be playing their first games of the season."

There are 61 total teams registered for this year's tournament, which is more than what they had for the Hoopla Tournament in February. In future years, they hope to get 80 to 100 teams.

"With this being the first time having this is November, we are happy with the numbers we've seen," Fast said. "We hope to expand upon that in future years as more teams begin to hear about it."

The Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Beatrice Hoops Program to organize this tournament, which Fast said has helped significantly.

"Bringing on the Hoops program has really made our jobs much easier," Fast said. "They have more connections with coaches and they know who to contact and how to contact them. It's been a good partnership."

The tournament begins Saturday morning and will take place at six venues in Beatrice, including the Auditorium, Beatrice High School, Beatrice Middle School, Mosaic, the YMCA and St. Paul Lutheran.

Fast said Beatrice is a sports-heavy town, so this tournament is perfect for local businesses.

"It's a perfect avenue for getting new people into town," Fast said. "The teams are guaranteed three games, so some may play in the morning and then have time off. It keeps them in town and hopefully gets them into some of our local businesses to spend money."

Sunrise Bakery is the Presenting Sponsor for the tournament and contributing sponsors include Beatrice Hospital, Beatrice Family Chiropractic, Sun Mart, East Court Dairy Queen and Southwick Chiropractic.

"For it being the first time for this tournament, we just want everything to run smoothly," Fast said. "I want people coming into town to have a good time. We also just want to thank the Hoops program and volunteers for their efforts in putting this tournament on."

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