March Madness: Big games mean big business for Indianapolis
Sunday's battle between Michigan and Kentucky topped off a week full of hoops hysteria for the city of Indianapolis.
It started when the Pacers beat the Heat earlier in the week, attracting visitors from out of town, and wrapped up over the weekend with the NCAA March Madness.
All told, Visit Indy officials estimated the economic impact to be $20 million as the games brought 40,000 people to the Circle City.
"It's beautiful. I hope to come down here for a Pacers game one day, too," said Michigan student Jamil Saad. He came down with three friends to watch the big game.
"It's actually warmer than Michigan so I'll take that as a plus," added another Michigan student, David Haidar.
The three came down Saturday and found lots to do before the big game, eating at local restaurants and doing some shopping at the Pacers store inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Kentucky fans who came up have enjoyed their time, too.
"I get to come to Indianapolis and see what it's like and watch Kentucky play one of their arch enemies," said 11-year-old Kentucky fan and resident Aron Bennett.
He and his dad have been in town since Friday, still going strong from Kentucky's upset over Louisville.
"I hit Ticket Master on my phone and bought tickets five rows up from the top of Lucas Oil Stadium," Grant Bennett said.
They're such a hot commodity that just showing them got our interview interrupted.
"Got some extra tickets you want to get rid of," a man asked while peddling his bicycle with a laminated sign that read, "Need tickets".
The extra foot traffic has been welcomed by businesses.
"The staff has made a lot of money and everyone's enjoyed it and they'll get their rest on Monday," said Kilroy's Downtown General Manager Jade Abel.
Kilroy's has been full-staffed all weekend long.
"We have another store and we brought in a few extra people from there as well to make sure we're staffed up, so it takes a lot of hands to make it work," Abel said.
It's also worked well to have a break in the action on Saturday.
"Having a Friday night game and a break on Saturday where the fan bases can soak up the sights and activities and spill into our restaurants and museums and spend tourism dollars, and then come back strong on Sunday with an additional game, that's picture perfect. You have a strong, long weekend of spending and fun in the city," said Chris Gahl with Visit Indy.
Gahl also said there's another perk that money can't buy.
"If you think back to the week, the Pacers were on a nationally televised game on TV with beauty shots of Indianapolis coming in and out of commercials, and then you look at this weekend with nationally televised games on Friday and then again on Sunday. You can't overlook the exposure and the marketing value of having 'Indianapolis' said repeatedly, beautiful shots of the city, the on-air banter and the social media chatter about having a great time in Indianapolis," Gahl said.
The exposure and economic impact is only expected to be bigger during next year's NCAA Final Four and Championship Game, which will be held in Indianapolis.