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Basketball Tournament Gives Area A Post-Water Crisis Rebound

Reported: Mar. 12, 2014 11:32 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 12, 2014 11:39 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - After weeks of slow business due to the chemical leak, the next few weekends will be a godsend to Charleston, as thousands of high school athletes and their supporters come to the city to play.

Eyewitness News went out for a progress report, to find out what businesses are saying now, given what they lost in the water crisis.

Every hotel we spoke with said they were sold out and could not be happier. Even places like the mall, which took a hit, not only in the water crisis, but even last week, when the area was socked with all that ice, were happy to see packed crowds.

Sure, it feels wintry out, but business inside is hot. The ladies came to town and thousands will, too!

"This basketball tournament was coming and there wasn't anything that was gonna stop it!," Wayne Stanfield, who manages the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Charleston, said.

The tournament is giving the city the rebound, after the water crisis sucker-punched our local economy.

"The teams in and of itself, have 3 to 4 kids in each room, then each team here has 15-20 rooms, with the teams, with the cheerleaders, the coaches and everything," Stanfield said.

And it all adds up.

"You guys are sold out?,” we asked. “Yes we are!," he said with a big smile.

Just under 1,000 people are staying in the Embassy Suites alone and every other hotel close to the action is filled-up as well.

The number one question: Is the water safe?

"I get that question more than anybody around here and as you can see, I'm bald, so I shave my head in the shower on a regular basis,” Stanfield said. “So this water's getting into my skin, I haven't been sick so."

He said hotels took a big hit. There were plenty of cancellations.

Tarryn Evans is visiting here from Canada.

"So you brought your bottled water with you?,” we asked.

“Yeah, all the way from Canada!," she joked, because the water crisis canceled her initial trip here for training.

"Okay, so you heard about what happened here,” we said.

“Actually I was supposed to come that weekend, but it got postponed til last week," said Evans. "But in terms of consuming, you feel better with the water?,” we asked.

“Yes, for sure, I don't want an upset tummy or anything!," she laughed.

Linda Kachmarek drove in from just east of Pittsburgh.

"Oh, it was rain, rain, rain," Kachmarek, whose granddaughter is playing in the tournament, said.

She too brought her own stash. "Well, I have some bottled water in my car, to drink, I do!,” she said.

“Just in case?,” we asked. “Just in case!," she said.

Wednesday night’s burst of snow and bitter cold is nothing new to Doug Mitchell, who lives on the New York-Pennsylvania border, in Corry, Pa.

"We already got a foot at home,” Mitchell said.

“Really?,” we asked.

“Yes!,” he laughed.

“Well you can keep it there!,” we joked.

“Good to get away from it for a change!," Mitchell said.

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