Hoopfest Returns This Weekend to Jenison
March 21, 2017
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
March Magic Hoopfest will return to Jenison Field House for this weekend’s Michigan High School Athletic Association Boys Basketball Finals, marking the eighth championship weekend the event has run concurrent with the games being played at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
A number of favorite attractions will return including slam dunk (on lowered rims), 3-point shootout and half-court shot areas where fans can come at any time and participate, and the festivities also will include a court for timed “Around the World” shooting games and another court featuring the Michigan Army National Guard skills challenge. Also returning is the Walk of History, showcasing championship games, life-size photos and display boards from throughout the MHSAA Finals’ near century-long run.
Two Hoopfest center courts will host a number of games throughout the event, including the “JumpBall Jamboree” made up of teams of boys and girls in grades 3-8, and a series of games between Special Olympics Project UNIFY high school teams.
Admission to the March Magic Hoopfest is $2 per person, and fans attending the MHSAA Boys Basketball Semifinals and Finals will be admitted free with their game tickets. Hours on March 23 and 24 will be 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.; the event is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 25. Jenison Field House, site of Hoopfest, also was the site of the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals for 31 years. To find out more general information about the event, visit the March Magic Hoopfest Website.
Hoopfest also will be home to Hoopie, the event’s mascot who made his first public appearances during the 2014 MHSAA Finals.
The March Magic Hoopfest is being conducted in partnership between the Greater Lansing Sports Authority (GLSA), a division of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the MHSAA, with vital support coming from the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at Michigan State University.
“For more than 90 years, basketball teams have ended their seasons at the MHSAA Tournament, and Hoopfest allows fans to share first-hand in the atmosphere that has made this such a historic event,” MHSAA Director of Brand Management Andy Frushour said. “It’s a great stop-over for our fans coming to or leaving the Breslin Center, and it’s also a great place to bring the family for some fun even for those who won’t be attending this weekend’s Finals.”
The Greater Lansing Sports Authority’s mission is to be the leading voice of sports tourism in the Greater Lansing area and to promote economic growth by attracting a diverse range of sporting events to the region. The GLSA strives to enhance the quality of life for area residents through the development of local sports and fitness programs for all ages and supports the continued development and maintenance of safe, high-quality athletic facilities.
“The March Magic Hoopfest sets off a great weekend of MHSAA tournament games and helps create a multi-day event which will involve the Lansing area and thousands of visitors from across the state,” said Mike Price, Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Sports Authority. “If you’re coming to the championships, Hoopfest is a destination to visit before and after the games; and if you’re not coming to the games, Hoopfest is a fun, wholesome, inexpensive, family activity.”
PHOTO: Hoopie entertains the crowd during the 2014 MHSAA Finals.
Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years Now as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
June 7, 2023
Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.
No one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.
No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.
And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.
“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.
“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”
The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.
Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.
Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.
That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).
“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”
Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.
Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.
“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”
Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.
During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.
Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.
“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”
Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.
Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.
One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.
That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.
But that was just the start.
This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.
“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.
And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)