IHSA March Madness Returns to Peoria

Mar 9, 2017

Caterpillar engineer Aaron Claver tests equipment for the Skyball 2.0 game he and his colleagues designed for the upcoming March Madness Experience at the Civic Center.
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The next two weekends in Peoria mean big bucks for the city’s tourism and hospitality business.

The Illinois High School Athletics March Madness tournament tips off Thurs., and it continues through Sat., March 18.

In addition to the matchups, the Civic Center has the ‘March Madness Experience” that includes booths, games and giant screen tv’s for sports fans of all ages.

“This type of experience is very similar to what the NBA does, so doing an exhibit like this, an experience like this, is really unique to the high school basketball area,” Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Center President Don Welch said.

The Convention and Visitors Center estimates last year’s IHSA tournament generated $2 million into the local economy.

The March Madness Experience is a carnival-like display, set set up in an exhibit hall outside the arena. During Thursday’s press conference, Caterpillar engineer Aaron Claver was setting up behind-the-scenes. Claver and a few Caterpillar colleagues volunteered to design and build a game, called Skyball 2.0.

“We have a passion for mechanics and electronics and making things out of nothing,” Claver said.

He the setup an “analogue game with digital components.” It has scaffolding about 13 feet high, with seven basketballs hanging from chains at different heights. When a Skyball player jumps to touch a basketball, LED lights ignite the chain.

The engineer says the highest basketball he can touch is the one hanging at nine feet.

It’s just one attraction, aside from the games themselves, for visitors to the Civic Center during this month’s tournament.