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PUBLISHED: 4:50 PM on Wednesday, March 21, 2007
B-ball time
61st annual Gold Medal tournament storms Juneau

CCW file photo
  Season passes are now available at the Hearthside Bookstores. General admittance tickets for the event are $45 for the general public and $35 for seniors and students. Tickets are individual games are $5 or more at the door. For more information, send e-mail to joyce_kitka@jsd.k12.ak.us or rvscomm@alaska.com.
It's about community celebration, renewed friendships and heavy competition-it's the Juneau Lions Club 61st Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament.

People across Southeast Alaska can get their fill of "b-ball" fever from Sunday, March 25 to Saturday, March 31.

As previous years, the event takes place at Juneau-Douglas High School's gymnasium.

Last year the Lions Club introduced an intermediate bracket, featuring young men ages 18-23 that brought new excitement to the tournament.

A new logo was launched and awards were presented with the 2006 tournament awards, hand-crafted from the JDHS's old gymnasium floor and bleachers.

This year's tournament highlights a new addition-the masters bracket, which includes men ages of 42 and up.

"It completes the whole array of giving people of all ages an opportunity to play," said Ross Soboleff, Juneau Lions Club first vice president.

It gets better and better every year, he said.

It takes a full year of prep for the Lions Club to get ready for Gold Medal; they kick into high gear in the fall. From setting up teams, recruitment, logistics and mass organization-the tournament begins to take form.


CCW file photo
  Time to play some ball!
"There is a core of people that do a lot of work," Soboleff said.

It's also an invitational tournament, with players selected by the Lions Club.

Soboleff said they try to put together a highly competitive tournament.

"It turns out to be fast, hot and exciting," Soboleff said. "There are three or four games that you're just hooting and hawing."

He said he's always amazed because while (some games) aren't the best teams, they're the best games.

"I would say it's one of the sports programs that every community in Southeast Alaska looks forward to," said 98-year-old Dr. Walter Soboleff, the founder of Gold Medal. Walter, a.k.a the "Lion Monarch," said the phrase, "I'll see you at Gold Medal," has become the word for rural Alaskans.

Ross said there are four players each in the Masters and Intermediate brackets and 14 players in the Women's bracket.

Overall, he said there are 12 teams total in five brackets.

Economically, Soboleff said all local business benefit. From hotels to restaurants, car rental companies to taxies and the airlines-it comes at a time of year when everyone needs an economic boost, he said.

The Lions Club receives monetary contributions from many organizations because of the mass effect it has on the community, and the good cause behind it all.

Proceeds from the Gold Medal Tournament provide scholarships for continuing education. According to last year's program booklet, 11 students were awarded scholarships in 2005. Students who may not have qualified for financial aid were able to benefit from the fund-raising efforts of the tournament due to a specialized award program.

"As a school district, we are honored to help facilitate such a wonderful event and recognize its importance not only to the participants but to the community of Juneau as well," said Joyce Kitka, Community Schools supervisor and Lion's Club member.

Beyond locality, the Lions Club is national and international, the world's largest volunteer service organization, with worldwide goals.

Soboleff said the program schedule this year will highlight their work on sight conservation.

"We would like (people) to know we are part of this bigger thing, trying to fight blindness and sight problems," he said.

A step toward their goal includes eyeglass recycling.

"We hope people bring eyeglasses (to Gold Medal); we gather the eyeglasses and then send them in, they're recycled for those who can't afford them," said Doloresa Cadiente, Lions Club third vice president.

Next week, the Lions Club will unveil its new Web site at www.goldmedalbasketball.org, which will be its address for the next 10 years.

"Gold Medal is more than a basketball tournament: it's about family, it's about culture," Kitka said.

Soboleff said Gold Medal is a time to close the door on winter, get ready for spring and a great place for people of all walks of life to play some ball.


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