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Tourism officials: NCAA games to have $100 million impact on economy

"Our pregame estimate shows a healthy nine figures in economic impact generated from hosting March Madness in its entirety."

INDIANAPOLIS — Tourism officials estimate the NCAA Tournament, held exclusively in Indiana this year, will provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the local economy that has otherwise been crushed by COVID-19.

"Our pregame estimate shows a healthy nine figures in economic impact generated from hosting March Madness in its entirety," said Chris Gahl, spokesperson for Visit Indy.  "An exact number (will be) fine-tuned once the nets are cut down after the championship game on April 5." 

Gahl said a flurry of 67 games over a 25-day period in March will bring in 3,000 visitors, including coaching staff, referees, and essential game personnel - and that's assuming no fans in the stands.

The NCAA made the announcement Monday and said it is working closely with the Marion County Public Health Department on protocols to keep players, coaches, staff and the larger community safe.

Most games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, and the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this March 30, 2010, file photo, light shines through the windows onto the basketball court at Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The NCAA announced Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, that all 67 men's basketball tournament games including the Final Four will be played entirely in Indiana in a bid to keep the marquee event from being called off for a second consecutive year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium as well as at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena at Purdue and Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

The Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice facility, with multiple courts set up inside the venue. Marriott properties will house most of the tournament teams. The properties are connected to the convention center via skywalks and within a controlled environment. All teams will be housed on dedicated hotel floors, with physically distanced meeting and dining rooms, as well as secure transportation to and from competition venues.

For Trevor Featherston, it means hope to downtown restaurants.

"It's been a crazy year to say the least," said Featherston, manager of the Rathskeller, a long-time restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue. "There have been restaurants left and right down here that have closed...this is a big deal, in my opinion."

Steven Horowitz, a distinguished professor of free enterprise at Ball State University, said how could it not be?

"Without that tournament, those hotel rooms, catering and everything else would be doing nothing," he said. "And so the net gain here is really big."

In addition to Indianapolis, the games will be held at Indiana University's Assembly Hall in Bloomington and Purdue's Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.

"I doubt that we'll get a whole lot of hotel rooms, but that’s OK," said Jo Wade, president and CEO of Visit Lafayette/West Lafayette. "People will (still) very likely be eating and watching the game in a restaurant or...even if officials don't stay here, they're likely to gas up their tanks, and so there is going to be some money spent in the area."

In a year like no other, it’s something, she said, which is a whole lot better than nothing.

"The biggest thing, I think, is just hope for the future," said Wade. "That they're going to run a good, successful, safe event and they've chosen to do it here."