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Harsh economic times catch up with Holiday Classic

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By Jeremy Donovan.
The Stop DWI Holiday Classic has seen it's fair share of star power of the years: former Clippers and Lakers star Lamar Odom, NFL wide receiver Percy Harvin, and Syracuse stand outs Gerry McNamara, Brandon Triche, and Donte Green. But now, the days of seeing future stars play at the arena are over.

"I'd say it's unlikely that anytime in the near future that you're going to see the teams that you've seen in the last couple years coming up here and playing at the arena," said Chris Marion, Broome County Stop DWI Coordinator.

The announcement was made Thursday, that after 23 years the Stop DWI Holiday Classic will no longer feature a national division. The decision was made due to rising costs of travel, lodging, and food; decreasing attendance; and difficulty finding sponsors. The tournament will maintain the two regional divisions and move play to Binghamton High School.

"We thought the best thing to do was to continue with the program with the message and with the regional teams who are really the ones that drive the attendance," Marion said. "The parents, the local parents and fans are the ones who buy the tickets and keep the tournament going. We want to put something together we can sustain and doesn't take up quite as much time raising money."

Rather than cut the national division entirely, the idea of keeping a four team division came up, but was quickly dismissed.

"They wanted three games," Marion said. "They didn't want a round robin tournament, they wanted a true champion in addition to the message. But a four team wasn't the solution, we would still have the same problems with rising costs and reduced attendance."

Marion said the timing of the announcement was made to notify the national division teams in time to find another tournament. He said the coaches were just as disappointed as he was. Binghamton Patriots head coach Dave Springer shared similar thoughts.

"It was a great experience," he said. "We got to see people play from New York City, we played Florida, we actually played in the championship against a team from Ohio, but to play at that level, or to see the guys that played in college or later in the NBA was a great experience for our program."

But for Springer, the future of the tournament still looks bright.

"For the teams that are in it, I think it's great. The message is the number one thing. Secondly, it's run wonderfully, it's a great staff and thirdly, you get to see great local basketball here in Binghamton."

The tournament will be moved from between Christmas and New Year's to mid-January, which means there will be no Stop DWI Classic in 2015.