CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Thousands of visitors are downtown for the south's premiere basketball event, the Gildan Charleston Classic. It's an ESPN hosted tournament featuring eight times at the College of Charleston's TD Arena.
The tournament is bringing in basketball fans from all over and boosting business downtown.
A head bartender at Kickin' Chicken, Kayla Owens says they've been getting a lot of customers especially in between games.
"Normally we expect this time of year to be a little bit slower, people are saving up for Thanksgiving and Christmas and we've been impacted really really well," Ownens said.
She says last night brought in a big crowd and they're expecting the same for Friday night.
The Charleston Visitor's Bureau officials says this tournament has had the biggest turnout so far. They say the timing is good right before the holiday and the the defending NCAA Champion, Villanova, has drawn a lot of people out.
Wendell Rakoskly is an Villanova Alumni.
"It's our first time in Charleston that's why we came here," Rokoskly said. "It was a combination of coming to the game, my birthday is on Monday and we got to see the town also."
In 2014, the Charleston Area Sports Commission reported that more than 19,000 visitors came during the tournament and that about 2,000 hotels were filled. It's a good sign for restaurants and businesses who are not yet in peak season.
"Some people come in during half time, get a couple of drinks, a little bit of food in between the games, then they come back and celebrate afterwards," Owens said.
While business is booming the Classic is also uniting families through basketball.
Christine Jenkins-Patrick says her nephew is playing in the tournament for Villanova. She says he shot the winning basket during the NCAA Championship game. She said it's like a family reunion for them to come to Charleston for the weekend.
"My daughter and her four children drove all the way from Norfolk Virginia to see Chris play today," Jenkins-Patrick said.
One of the mother's, Jennifer Lamont, of a player from Western Michigan says this weekend is like their Thanksgiving break because her son will be playing and practicing during the actual holiday. It's another reason why so many families are coming out.
"We've been out to some of the really great restaurants and did some shopping this morning so we are really happy to be here," Lamonte said. "I think it's a great city to be in and I get to see my son play."