What’s round and orange and bounces lots of green into the local economy? Basketballs and lots of them!

Nearly 340 teams are playing in the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships with an estimated 8,000 players, coaches and family members in the city for the event that began with registration Sunday and ends Friday. It’s Springfield’s largest annual group event.

On the heels of NCHBC are the men’s and women’s NCAA Division II Midwest Regionals beginning Friday at O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University. Sixteen teams, including the local Panthers and Lady Panthers, will compete through Tuesday, adding another 800 or so visitors to Springfield’s population.

That’s a bunch of hungry athletes and fans eating at restaurants, filling up hotels, shopping and enjoying the city’s attractions. In short, they’re spending money. People in Springfield for sports events spend an estimated $100 per person per day.

Some of that spending is at Springfield’s Incredible Pizza Co. where several teams have booked events this week, said Zack Martin, senior events sales manager at Springfield’s Incredible Pizza Co.

“We’ve certainly seen a good return on them being in the Springfield community,” Martin said.

Becky Gulledge, a parent of three NCHBC players from Little Rock, Ark., said the tournament keeps her family busy but they do enjoy eating out and always make a stop at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.

“It’s pretty much our vacation because we spend the money we would spend on vacation,” she said. “We spend about $1,000 on this trip.”

Charlotte McCoy, marketing and special events director at Discovery Center, said many families appear to make the tournament their vacation because she sees a spike in visitors at Discovery Center during the NCHBC tournament. It’s easy to spot the players because many are in uniform when they visit, she said.

“Homeschool individuals always seek out discovery centers and science centers because they add to their education,” McCoy said. “We always look forward to them visiting to see our new exhibits and the things we have to offer the community.”

Missy Handyside, general manager at the Ramada Plaza Hotel & Oasis Convention Center, said the impact of NCHBC is “huge” with teams occupying 70 percent of available rooms at the hotel this week.

“We did not completely sell out our hotel but they are a large percentage of our guests,” Handyside said. “We wish we had this group 52 weeks a year.”

To learn more about this and other conventions and events brought to Springfield by the Springfield Sports Commission and Convention & Visitors Bureau, call 417-881-5300 or 800-678-8767 or visit www.SelectSpringfield.com. The Sports Commission and CVB are a nonprofit organizations dedicated to boosting the local economy by promoting travel and tourism to Springfield.