The U.S. Virgin Islands is now an approved destination to host National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I teams.
In addition to hosting basketball, volleyball and swimming events, the territory can facilitate the participation of soccer, lacrosse and other NCAA-sponsored sports during the summer months.
Governor Kenneth E. Mapp said the new designation represented a huge boost for sports tourism opportunities in the territory.
“With all 24 NCAA Division I sports teams now able to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands for summer tours, we look forward to being part of the growth of the Paradise Jam [basketball] competitions and to the possibility of hosting other NCAA sporting events,” Mapp said. ”This is an amazing opportunity to expand our sports tourism portfolio and our facilities.”
The USVI and Basketball Travelers have partnered to bring five men’s college basketball teams to the Territory as early as this August now that the USVI has been approved as an international or foreign tour destination for Division I colleges across the United States.
Hawkinson, whose Basketball Travelers organizes both domestic and international basketball competitions for college and high school teams, noted that there are 340 Division I universities in the United States, each with approximately 25 sports with 50 potential teams (men and women combined) that can now visit the islands.
“We’re very excited to build on the success we’ve had for the last 18 years with Paradise Jam and to bring additional teams here,” he said. “We’re looking forward to this new initiative and continuing our great partnership with the U.S. Virgin Islands and its people.”
The hope is to model destinations like The Bahamas, which has become the region’s premier sports tourism destination with events like the Battle 4 Atlantis NCAA basketball tournament and the annual Bahamas Bowl college football event.
— Dana Niland, CJ Contributor