March Madness matchups should bring millions in visitor spending

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 24, 2014) – Downtown Indianapolis is already preparing for another big week of basketball.

Later this week, the city plays host to the NCAA regionals, an event that should bring thousands of fans and millions of dollars, and local officials say they couldn’t be happier with the teams that ended up advancing to play here in Indy.

Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan and Tennessee all earned a spot in the regional round by winning this past weekend, and their collective popularity is already driving up ticket prices for this weekend’s games.

“Those teams have huge fan bases,” said Circle City Tickets co-owner Mike Peduto. “The demand obviously took a big jump over the weekend.”

Just ask Matt Oatts. He spent $400 per ticket Monday so he could see his beloved Kentucky Wildcats play in-state rival Louisville.

“I went to the sweet 16 a couple of years ago and paid about $185,” said Oatts. “I was expecting it to be about that price, but I paid quite a bit more… now that UK’s in it, playing Louisville, I can’t pass that up.”

“We have four teams that are great brands, great fan bases, and fairly convenient travel to get here,” said John Dedman with the Indiana Sports Corporation. “We expect the hotels, the restaurants, the bars, the shopping malls, the attractions, you name it, there are going to be people there.”

Officials say it all adds up to $20 million in economic impact, with some 35-thousand fans filling Lucas Oil Stadium.

And with so much demand, they’re still looking at the possibility of making more seats available.

“We’re still trying to work with the NCAA to see what else we can open up that would still have a decent view of the court,” said Dedman. “The great thing about Lucas Oil Stadium is it is so flexible… we’ve taken a football stadium and we’ve converted it into a basketball arena.”

Meantime, local hotel managers say there are actually some rooms still available for the weekend, at least for now.

“(But) I imagine based on the teams that those are going to go pretty quickly,” said Phil Ray, general manager at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. “You couldn’t really ask for 4 better teams to come to Indianapolis.”