Valparaiso, IN - The Lutheran Basketball Association of America's (LBAA) annual national tournament will return to Valparaiso University March 27 through March 30. The tournament will bring more than 64 middle school boys and girls basketball teams to the South Shore to compete in the four-day tournament.

The annual event books 2,400 room nights throughout Lake and Porter counties during a month that is typically slow for local hotels. Through a partnership between LBAA's board of directors and the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, tournament attendees experience ease when booking rooms for the event through the South Shore CVA's housing system.

"The housing system provides a smooth booking process while allowing the South Shore CVA to track the impact this event and others have on the region," said Rick Flutka, sports development manager for the South Shore CVA.

The housing portion of the tournament is a year-long process for the South Shore CVA. The South Shore CVA coordinates room blocks with multiple hotels and builds a microsite for tournament attendees so they may see what rooms are available. The South Shore CVA then works with attendees to ensure placement in desired hotels once room blocks have been designated by the participating hotels.

Mark LaBarbera, athletic director for Valparaiso University, explained that much work goes into planning and hosting the tournament, and the university welcomes the partnership with the South Shore CVA to receive help in coordinating the event.

"With LBAA, there are a lot of logistics. While the university is happy to provide fellowship and the space for the tournament, the South Shore CVA helps with hotels," said LaBarbera. "We've got the pieces for the actual event, and the South Shore CVA is a great partner to help with hotels and things to do in the area."

Michael Morgan, member of the LBAA board of directors, explained that the tournament has enjoyed working with both Valparaiso University and the South Shore CVA.

"Working as a team, Valparaiso University, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and the LBAA continue to make this tournament the largest multi-day event in Valparaiso," said Morgan. "The South Shore CVA has helped take this tournament further by providing a smoother and much easier process for hotel registrations. The LBAA board of directors values the continued support from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and the overwhelming support we get from Valparaiso."

Morgan went on to say that Valparaiso University provides players the opportunity for competition between their fellow athletes, to showcase their talents and to compare skill levels from different areas across the United States while allowing them to learn how to travel, make new friends and profess their Christian faith with like-minded people. Additionally, hosting the tournament at Valparaiso University has allowed the student athletes to feel the importance placed on the event.

"Valparaiso provides a tremendous setting for a tournament of this magnitude. The atmosphere makes the student athletes feel like big-time players competing in their own March Madness playoffs," Morgan said.

According to Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore CVA, the LBAA tournament contributes an estimated $625,000 in economic impact to the South Shore annually. During 2014, the South Shore CVA is estimating that sports tourism will contribute an estimated $2.4 million in economic impact.

"Sports tourism is big business for the South Shore," stated Batistatos. "Major events, like Lutheran Basketball, attract players, families and fans from across the US, filling hotel rooms, restaurants and businesses." Batistatos explained that the LBAA tournament will bring teams from across the United States, including teams from Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Nevada and California.

Other sporting events planned in 2014 include Leon's Triathlon on June 1, the Premier Girls Fastpitch Softball Tournament June 12-16, National Softball Association Girls Fast Pitch "B" World Series July 21-26 and Ohio Valley Baseball July 24-27.

For more information on sporting events along the South Shore, contact Rick Flutka at rickcf@southshorecva.com or visit www.southshorecva.com/sports/.