After scenes from the August 2023 Maui wildfires began to circulate, people all over the world held their collective breath. Homes and businesses were destroyed, and the death toll (which still cannot be finalized for some time) currently sits at 115.
College basketball fans could only stare at a wiped out Lahaina town and wonder if the Maui Invitational would be added to the list of precious things lost to the uncontrolled blaze. For many fans, a trip to the Lahaina Civic Center was like a pilgrimage, a chance to watch their favorite college teams play in a traditional gym in the middle of paradise.
When Covid-19 struck and Hawaii had to go into lockdown, the 2020 Maui Invitational was moved to Asheville, NC. It was an admirable attempt to keep the tournament alive, but Asheville, while beautiful in its own right with its mountains and fall foliage, is not a facsimile to the tropical paradise of Maui. Recruits don’t rub their hands together dreaming of playing in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Lahaina Civic Center survived the wildfires, but it is currently being utilized as a hub for recovery efforts in Maui. With so much damage to the local economy around it, and without enough shelter to properly care for Maui residents, the tournament cannot be held in Maui this November.
So the announcement came with great relief that this year’s tournament was moving to Oahu:
This year’s Tournament will shift to the island of Oʻahu while its traditional home court – the Lahaina Civic Center – continues to serve as a critical hub for Maui wildfire recovery efforts.— Maui Invitational (@MauiInv) September 15, 2023
Click here for more information about the relocation: https://t.co/6GXZOZStlx pic.twitter.com/T8206sBAbZ
The 2023 Maui Invitational will move to the Stan Sherriff Center, home of the University of Hawaii, a mere 11 minute drive from Waikiki. But the even better (and more UNC relevant news) was that the 2024 tournament would be back in Maui.
Carolina fans that want to spend Thanksgiving in paradise will have a chance to see the Tar Heels play in the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center. Having had the pleasure of attending in 2016 when UNC beat Chaminade, Oklahoma State, and Wisconsin, I can truthfully report that it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.