For the first time in 11 years, Missoula is hosting a state high school basketball tournament this Thursday through Saturday. 

The State Class 'C' Girls tournament gets underway on Thursday morning with eight teams represented. Executive Director of the Adams Center on the UM campus, Brad Murphy explained how the tournament came to Missoula after such a long drought.

"The big factor is the TBID, the Tourism Business Improvement District, now has funds available to go out as a city and bid sporting events to come to our city at a zero bid level, meaning they cover the cost of bringing those events here, so that's how we've been able to bring more sporting events to our city. We were never able to place zero-based bids before, so we were at a disadvantage with all the other venues around the state, such as Billings, Bozeman and Butte."

Murphy said in the case of Class 'C' teams, oftentimes the entire communities hit the road and travel hundreds of miles to support their teams.

"Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale has come the farthest distance, traveling nearly 600 miles to attend the tournament," Murphy said. "The town of Circle is coming and I talked to their athletic director and he said he didn't know if there would be anybody left to turn the lights on. When people come from these small towns, they go shopping, they rent motel rooms, eat lots of meals in our restaurants, buy gas, and spend thousands of dollars in our community."

Murphy said the State Class 'A' tournament is in Hamilton this weekend, which will bring many of those fans through Missoula, as well.

"In some of these events, like a big-time soccer tournament or state basketball tournaments, or even the upcoming Big Sky Conference Women's basketball tournament later this month, the economic impact can be as high as $2 million."

The first game Thursday at 12:30 p.m. will be Circle vs. Broadview-Lavina, at 2:00 p.m. it's Gardiner vs. Cascade. In the evening session at 6:30 p.m., it's Park City vs.Twin Bridges, and at 8:00 p.m. it's Belt vs. Saco-Whitewater-HInsdale.  Volunteers are still needed as ushers to welcome fans and help them find their seats. To volunteer, contact the Adams Center at 243-5355 or 243-5403.