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A Publication of WTVP

Their sights are Peoria bound-the future champions of March Madness. Snapshot: a seven-year-old, tousle-headed boy is bouncing a basketball on his drive. His hands barely able to dribble, he hears the roar of the crowd as he turns, shoots, and scores the winning basket.

This dream continues as he joins "biddy basketball," plays with his grade school buddies, and finally makes the high school team. Through many grueling, sweltering hours of weightlifting, sprints, and drills, the muscles gain strength, the response quickens, and the endurance builds. The ball becomes almost an extension of his body. Shot by shot, basket by basket, game by game, he reaches his goal. More importantly, he begins to learn what it takes to be part of something greater than he is-the team. He learns the sensation felt when each member gives his best, each working together to achieve the optimal team synergy. He learns the thrill of the win and the disappointment of the loss. He learns how to use each mistake and failure as steps toward future success. He learns about life.

This is the caliber of athletes who will journey from conference victories to regionals, sectionals, super-sectionals, semi-finals, quarterfinals, and then the ultimate game. We have the fortune to be part of this magic, the frenzy, the madness.

March Madness will experience its 10th year in Peoria, and, at the same time, we'll submit our bid for the next five years of the Illinois High School Association's Class A and Class AA Boys Basketball Championships. More than ever, our hospitality will be critical. As we all use each opportunity to express a strong welcome to these teams, families, and communities, remember that we're building a lifetime experience for them. That's what makes us the best host for this tournament.

More than 80,000 people will rally at the Peoria Civic Center to witness the best of the best showcasing their talents. During two weekends, March 11 to 13 and 18 to 20, the region will be inundated with basketball fans, young and old.

The economic impact of these two tournament weekends is predicted to be $4.4 to $6 million. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, retailers, countless businesses, and regional municipalities will reap the rewards of these basketball championships.

The entire region will be touched by this tournament-not only economically, but also from the community pride we feel. We have our own team approach to hosting IHSA March Madness. From the Steering Commit-tee to the multiple organizations, including the Peoria Civic Center, the Peoria Park District, the City of Peoria, Bradley University, and the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to the more than 2,000 volunteers, we devote countless hours to ensure our visitors experience the hospitality and creativity of our region. We're the home of the tournament of champions. Caterpillar Inc. and AmerenCILCO, along with many other area businesses, lead the charge by providing corporate sponsorships to infuse the March Madness Experience and support this tremendous IHSA event. We're the home of the tournament of champions. We are Peoria. IBI

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