By Josh Heck
Wichita businesses and community stakeholders are eager to capitalize on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“This is big time. This is huge,” says Susie Santo, president and CEO of Visit Wichita. “This is why the arena was built. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how this is coming together. Come March 15, people are going to know the NCAA is in town and this tournament is going on.”
Santo and others involved say hosting the tournament is an opportunity to showcase Wichita to a national audience.
“We want to put our best foot forward and offer these folks a great introduction to Wichita,” says Mayor Jeff Longwell.
Longwell says the hope is some will want to come back to Wichita, and others will consider moving here. That, he says, could help Wichita address some of its workforce needs.
Hosting the tournament is expected to generate an economic impact of $10 million, not counting the TV exposure.
The tournament promises to be a financial windfall for downtown restaurants and bars.
Events taking place around the arena are creating opportunities for vendors as well. Rental businesses and food and beverage distributors have been busy.
The city’s merchants are anticipating increases in traffic. Hotels are expected to be at capacity. Seven hotels are serving as tournament lodging partners for teams, officials and media: The Ambassador, Hyatt Regency Wichita, DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita Airport, Wichita Marriott, Holiday Inn Wichita East, The Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview and The Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town.
The Wichita Police Department and the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office will provide around 90 police escorts for the teams during their time in Wichita.
“Wichita is working really hard to go above and beyond to show the NCAA this is a place (the organization) will want to come back to year after year,” says Jason Van Sickle, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and past president of the Old Town Association.