Elgin to become a player on professional team handball court

Published: 4/17/2009 12:01 AM

The city of Elgin and Judson University can already boast that they're home to Jennie Finch and the 2008 champion Chicago Bandits womens softball team.

Now, they have another feather in their caps: playing host to the largest team handball club tournament in the country May 8 through 10.

"We need to find a place that will literally and figuratively adopt USA Team Handball," said Steve Pastorino, USA Team Handball general manager. "We are very, very interested in establishing a foothold for handball in the Chicago area."

Organizers believe the influx of 27 teams and more than 540 athletes, along with their families, will inject some $300,000 into the local economy for hotel rooms, transportation and meals.

The sport, which is played in the summer Olympics, consists of seven players a side on an indoor court about 40 feet longer than a basketball court.

Players dribble, pass and shoot the ball at a goalie protecting a 6-foot by 10-foot wide net. Scores are usually in the 30s.

Officials hope the tournament will help introduce the area to an Olympic sport, especially with Chicago making a bid for the 2016 games.

Tickets for the weekend's games are $5 or $30 for an all-weekend VIP pass for games at Judson, the Centre of Elgin and Elgin Community College. For details, visit usateamhandball.org or call (801) 463-2000.

"This is all about providing an opportunity for the tournament to be successful, and we think Elgin is equipped to do that," Mayor Ed Schock said. "We're committed to doing that."

The last time a U.S. team qualified for the Olympics was 1996. For the last three Olympiads, Brazil has qualified out of the 57 countries in the U.S. region.

One local team set to take the court is "Victorious Secret," a Frankfort-based team of male high school students looking to transition from a dodgeball team to handball.

Coach Ron Miner said having a tournament in their backyard is a huge boost and a definite home court advantage.

"They won everything in dodgeball," Miner said. "We watch (team handball) in the Olympics and we said it was the same skill set. Our team is already a team of athletes. It's just training them for handball."

The Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau worked with USA Team Handball to beat out three other cities interested in the tournament: Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, and Oklahoma City.

"We're very intrigued and ready to embrace it in our city," said Nancy Binger, Judson's director of athletics. "We hope this year's event will lead to a long-term relationship and that it will become a well-known event in the city of Elgin."