Experience wraps up, another good year for ELITE

By Beau Ebenezer

March 16, 2013 Updated Mar 16, 2013 at 6:42 PM CDT

PEORIA Ill -- Aside from the intense basketball action that the Peoria Civic Center brings every year.

Another part has become quite famous, attracting basketball players and fanatics every March.

"It's a great experience that the City of Peoria does," said Dunlap resident, Tim Ward. "It's available to us, and it is nice we can come out and do it as a family and be together."

The IHSA Experience has dozens of activities to choose from each year.

For Ward and his daughter, Erin they try to make it a point every year to get in on the March Madness.

To make sure they did not miss a thing, they came out on the final day of the experience to hoop it up "in the dark".

"It was a really fun game. It was a night basketball game where you had to partner up and dribble around in the dark," said Ward. "Then you pass it off to your teammate, and hopefully they score."

"We've been doing a bunch of the competitions," said Erin Ward. "They are really fun. It's really cool because you can learn how different people play and different skills and stuff."

However, that family atmosphere at the experience wouldn't be possible if it was not for the ELITE Youth Program, which helps manage the event.

"On occasions you have to ask somebody to leave because they are not doing what is required to stay inside, but we haven't had any problems," said ELITE compliance officer, Tony Jenkins. "There has been no arrests since we've been here. There has been a family atmosphere. We have given a sense of family back to the families, where at some point they may have thought they were losing it."

The Elite Youth Program has been working with the the tournament for the past four years, monitoring the Experience and keeping children under control.

After another successful year for families, ELITE officials said they are ready for another good year, come next March Madness.