RAPID CITY, S.D. — The annual Lakota Nation Invitational Basketball Tournament is back.
After the tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes from across the state and region began competing on Wednesday at the Monument.
But this is more than a tournament, it’s as some would call it, a tradition.
LNI began in 1976 and has most been held in Rapid City (the first two years were held in Pine Ridge) for the majority of its duration. At the 44th anniversary of the tournament, some say it’s as much about the culture as it is about the sport of basketball.
“It’s become a staple for Rapid City sporting and cultural events,” said Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender. “It’s something we can all be proud of.”
Mayor Allender also reminded that LNI was the first event held at what was the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, and that it will also be the first basketball event held in the Summit Arena.
In recent years, the tournament has grown to the extent that teams have had to go off site of the Civic Center and play in other gyms around the city.
The new Summit Arena and space aimed to change that.
This year, a total of 16 new teams were added to the list of teams competing at LNI, a 30 percent increase from the last LNI in 2019. The new arena also has two additional locker rooms that allows for the tournament to be held in one spot.
“We are able to now how the whole thing under The Monument and our multiple facilities, so that made it better and they were able to increase their teams,” said Craig Baltzer, the Executive Director of The Monument.
The rise in new teams is sparking expectations for a rise in the number of people visiting for the tournament and staying in hotel rooms, eating in restaurants and contributing to the area’s economy.
Mayor Allender says that it’s a boost for local businesses and that it’s a way for those visiting to get their Christmas shopping done. He says that it’s also a major contributor to the city’s sales tax numbers.
“There is a peak leading up to the Christmas season and part of that peak is the LNI Tournament and so it’s always been something regarded as very important economically for Rapid City,” Mayor Allender said.