400 Youth Take Over Columbus Drive For City's Biggest Basketball Tournament

Ariel Parrella-Aureli
August 16, 2019 - 4:14 pm

LISC Chicago


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Over 400 youth from 22 Chicago neighborhoods will shut down Columbus Drive Aug. 17 for a basketball tournament that signals the biggest year of LISC Chicago’s Hoops in the Hood program so far.

For 13 years, community organizations across Chicago have united through basketball to empower residents to reclaim their streets and promote peace, according to LISC Chicago, a nonprofit housing and social service organization.

Ashleigh Wayland, sports program officer at LISC Chicago, said the organization is excited to expand the program, which is in partnership with the Chicago Park District.

“We have 36 teams participating, including six all-girls teams,” said Wayland. “This year, we have grown the tournament and we are closing down Columbus Drive from Balbo to Roosevelt.”

Designed to literally take back the streets from gangs and violence, the violence-prevention program takes back public spaces across the city. To date, LISC Chicago said more than 26,000 Chicago youth have participated.

26,000 Chicago youth have participated in the tournament since it began 13 years ago. (LISC Chicago)

This year, longtime program supporter State Farm is providing backpacks and school supplies for all youth that participate, Wayland said.

“This is by far the biggest year of our Hoops in the Hood program yet,” she said.

Each year, hundreds of athletes, ranging from 8 to 19 years old, play in the summer-long leagues that blend street basketball with other recreational activities, games, music and free food to develop youth leadership skills and teamwork while fostering civic engagement and community building, she said. 

The tournament starts at 10 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m and will take over Columbus Drive between Balbo and Roosevelt. The Air and Water Show is also happening downtown during the same time.