As the Shockers and Jayhawks head into the Sweet 16, fans are looking to don their team’s colors in support, and local retailers are responding to the demand.
“This town will be painted black and gold before it’s over,” said Tad Snarenberger, owner of Tad’s Locker Room, 9747 E. 21st St. “It’s been phenomenal. We’re darned near sold out, but we have another shipment coming in (Tuesday). The fans have been crazy. They’ve been waiting for this for six and a half years.”
With wins in the NCAA tournament over the weekend, Wichita State and KU are headed to the next round of play. WSU will play La Salle on Thursday in Los Angeles, while KU will face Michigan on Friday in Arlington, Texas.
Whether they are headed for the games, their living rooms or local sports bars, fans are gearing up – as in sports gear.
Snarenberger said his store has sold 20 boxes — 100 shirts a box — just of Wichita State Sweet 16 shirts.
That shipment came in Sunday. Another arrived Monday, and two more orders are coming in Tuesday, he said.
The excitement, Snarenberger said, seems even greater than in 2006, when WSU last made it to the Sweet 16.
“We knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation, and people are really excited, and I’ve got a feeling we’re not done,” Snarenberger said.
Meanwhile, KU sales are also holding steady, Snarenberger said.
“We don’t want to forget about them,” he said. “They’re doing just as well.”
Kansas Sampler Rally House, 3053 N. Rock Road, has seen a 15 percent increase in sales for WSU gear, said manager Jordan Best-Grim.
KU sales have been steady, but without any big spurt.
“KU fans are pretty used to the Sweet 16, and they usually wait until the Elite Eight or Final Four (to buy merchandise),” she said. “But they’re still doing well. It’s a hot market and a hot traffic item.” WSU’s bookstore has seen a mix of current and prospective students, alumni, faculty and staff and the everyday fan, said Andi Stipp, assistant director.
The store sold out of some sizes of the Sweet 16 shirts and reordered more, Stipp said, and they had hundreds of sales in store on Monday, in addition to online.
“Sales are always good when athletic teams are hot, and we ride the wave with them,” Stipp said.
At Sports Time Fan Shop in New MarketSquare, 2441 N. Maize Road, Suite 123, one truckload of Sweet 16 shirts wasn’t enough, said store manager Valerie Becker.
There was a steady stream of customers at the store throughout Monday, Becker said.
“We look forward to this,” Becker said. “Christmas and March Madness are the best time for sports retail season. We pretty much sleep here.”
Chris Noone, a Wichita State junior studying criminal justice and psychology, was in the store Monday afternoon to purchase Sweet 16 shirts and a rally towel for family members in Connecticut.
“They’re big WSU fans, and I’m going to send this to them,” he said.
Becker said she heard customers Monday as they made plans to come back for Elite Eight and Final Four T-shirts.
“They’re going to flock in after Thursday’s game,” she predicted.