Wichita hotels, restaurants will be among NCAA winners

The downtown Wichita skyline (February 2012)
The downtown Wichita skyline (February 2012) The Wichita Eagle

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is expected to fill Wichita’s hotel rooms and bring brisk business to restaurants and other businesses when the city hosts the preliminary rounds of the tournament in March 2018.

It’s part of the $10 million in direct economic impact the college tournament is expected to bring to Wichita, officials said.

The NCAA announced Monday that Wichita was one of eight cities that would host Round 1 and Round 2 of the annual tournament, which will culminate with the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.

As part of the event in Wichita, the NCAA will contract for more than 3,000 of the city’s hotel rooms for use by the eight men’s teams, staff, media and officials, according to Go Wichita, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

“However, we anticipate a citywide sellout,” said Go Wichita communications manager James Williams.

Intrust Bank Arena, the site of the tournament, holds more than 15,000 people.

The number of tickets sold will be affected by which teams make the tournament and how far away fans must travel to see them play.

“We hope to see it full for every game,” Williams said.

The city’s $10 million in economic impact was calculated using the Destination Marketing Association International’s event impact calculator, he said. It’s an industry standard for figuring an economic value of an event, DMAI’s website said.

The economic impact for host cities can vary widely. A check of other cities that had hosted early rounds of the tournament found officials assessed impact at $4.2 million in Raleigh, N.C., for example, while Tulsa officials put the figure at about $11 million.

A $10 million economic impact would bring in $500,000 in state sales taxes and nearly $100,000 in local sales taxes, Williams said.

The restaurants will be packed, said Ty Issa, who operates Larkspur Bistro & Bar in Old Town, along with YaYa’s Euro Bistro, Hereford House Wichita and the Scotch & Sirloin.

He figures sales will increase 30 percent at Larkspur.

“It will just draw people down here,” Issa said.

When there are activities downtown, such as the symphony, Music Theatre Wichita or concerts, people come downtown for dinner.

“It’s too bad it’s only two days,” Issa said of the tournament.

Eric Davisson, general manager of Heroes Sports Bar and Grill, is excited about the event and what it means for Wichita.

“It puts an exciting event right here in downtown Wichita, and it puts a lot of people from out of town in downtown Wichita,” Davisson said.

Besides filling up hotel rooms, “hopefully, Heroes could sell them some cheeseburgers as well,” he said.

Jim Korrach, president and CEO of Ag Holdings, operates the Courtyard Wichita at Old Town and the Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown.

Both are in close proximity to the arena.

It’s been a long time that the city has had something with this kind of magnitude, Korrach said. “Nothing with a national spotlight, like what this event is going to be. It will do great things for the city.”

“We know it’s going to have a major impact to our business – the hotel business,” he said. “Not just with the fans and the teams, but the supplemental affiliations, the TV crews, reporters, schools coming in. It certainly will have a longer economic than just two days.”

For Wichita to bid on getting the tournament, Wichita’s biggest hotels had to work together to participate and commit to rooms to make sure the rooms and meeting spaces needed are available, said Hyatt Regency Wichita general manager Ripton Melhado.

“I’m sure we will have teams staying here with us,” Melhado said. “That will create limited availability for the public. That in turn, will be able to benefit many of the other hotels in the area because it will drive demand outward.”

Oklahoma City was selected Monday to host the first and second rounds of the 2016 NCAA men’s tournament.

The city expects its economic impact to total $8 million to $10 million. That includes $4 million to $5 million from ticket sales, said Greater Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce media relations coordinator Carrie Snodgrass.

In Raleigh, N.C., the $4.2 million generated from the 2014 NCAA rounds in March was only part of the financial equation. The event also drew 17,720 out-of-area visitors to the city, according to the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

Raleigh also was selected to host rounds one and two in 2016.

In 2011, the NCAA tournament in Tulsa brought an $11 million in direct and indirect economic impact to the city, according to Ray Hoyt, senior vice president for the Tulsa Sports Commission and Visit Tulsa.

It was the first time Tulsa had hosted the tournament since the 1980s. And it was the first time it hosted the NCAA in its new BOK Center arena, Hoyt said.

Tulsa’s old arena wasn’t up to NCAA standards anymore, Hoyt said.

BOK Center is an “amazing” facility, he said. “It does great things for our community.”

It became “the firestarter of the redevelopment of downtown Tulsa,” Hoyt said.

The tournament put the arena and Tulsa on the national stage and on national TV, Hoyt said. “It was really our coming out party.”

The economic impact in 2011 was also positively affected by the teams involved, he said. They included Kansas, Texas, Tennessee and Arizona. The proximity made it easier for fans to come to Tulsa to attend the game.

About 43,000 tickets were sold, Hoyt said.

Tulsa was also selected to host the first and second rounds of the tournament in 2017.

Hoyt’s advice to Wichita?

“Put your best foot forward,” he said. “Promote your city as much as you can. … I think you have to put up banners and roll out the red carpet for your fan base.”

He suggested hosting concerts and running shuttles around the downtown area.

“We took them to our entertainment district where there’s dining and sports bars,” Hoyt said.

He also suggested hanging welcome signs at the airport and banners around the town.

“That way, they know you’re glad they’re here,” he said. “The more you make them feel welcome, the more likely they are to come back on an unrelated trip or a long weekend.”

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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