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SWABs banquet ends long run

The Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters Youth Sports Awards banquet would have celebrated its 35th birthday in February.

There won’t be a party – er, banquet – this year. It has been canceled indefinitely because it’s become too expensive, Spokane Sports Commission President and CEO Eric Sawyer said Thursday.

“We suspended it, let’s put it that way,” Sawyer said. “We’re exploring alternatives. The bottom line was the bottom line. We couldn’t afford to keep it going in the present state.”

Sawyer said it costs $36,000 for rental of the facility and meals. He said the event has lost money the past five years.

There won’t be a suspension in the awards, though. The sports commission will continue to purchase the trophies and present them to the winning athletes, teams and coaches selected by the media.

“I told them the other day that if you suspend it, it’ll never come back,” SWAB president Mike Vlahovich said.

The adult dinner honoring the region’s top amateur and professional male and female athletes and teams was curtailed in 2000, and it hasn’t been resurrected.

“We looked into putting it on somewhere else on a smaller scale,” Vlahovich said. “We couldn’t make it happen. We’re going to miss it. I guess its time has come. The media has gone in a different direction and the (sports commission) wants to go in a different direction.”

Sawyer believes the youth had become disinterested in the banquet format. About 1,500 youth from throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho attended the banquet.

“The (youth) today are motivated in different ways. That’s not bad or better,” Sawyer said. “We need to react to that. So the (regional) board frankly had a come-to-Jesus meeting. We’re a nonprofit and can’t keep losing money. We had to start underwriting (the expenses) and ultimately we became our own sponsor. We were taking money away from other programs. We were putting at risk other programs that were frankly more important short term. It didn’t make any sense to keep going down that path.”

Sawyer said he’s open to any ideas for a new format.

“We want to stay involved,” Sawyer said. “It’s a chance for us to step back and say, ‘What’s going to appeal to the 21st-century kid?’ Luncheons might be a little old school.”