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Indy's March Madness was an overwhelming success
The city came alive again, hotels were filled and Hoosier hospitality was on full display as they crushed it.
Indianapolis has been in the spotlight the last three weeks as the sole host of the NCAA men’s division I basketball tournament. The tournament is significant not just for fans, but also for the NCAA. It accounts for more than 70 percent of their budget so when last year’s had to be canceled, it was a huge dent on the organization and its people.
Quite simply, that couldn’t happen again.
So the NCAA, whose headquarters are on the canal in downtown Indianapolis, elected to keep it in their backyard where they could count on their marquee event succeeding.
Indy hosts more than 250,000 fans at the Indianapolis 500 each year. It hosted the men’s and women’s Big Ten basketball tournament and the annual Big Ten football championship game. Coming to town on Jan. 10, 2022 will be the College Football Playoff Championship game — and then the NBA All-Star game in 2024.
Most cities have several years to plan whereas Indy had just a few months. It was officially announced on Jan. 4 — and was a very good replacement considering the NBA had postponed Indy’s All-Star game three years.
There were six sites, including four in central Indiana. Hinkle Fieldhouse seemed to be the favorite because it’s historical and offered the most intimate, college-like atmosphere. Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosted 16 games.
Holding the tournament in Indy was also huge for hospitality workers. More than 40 percent in the hospitality industry are underemployed or unemployed. Hotel occupancy went up to 97 percent during Final Four weekend.
Before the tournament, the estimated economic impact on the city was more than $100 million. A thorough study is being done, the same group that was hired in 2012 for Indy’s Super Bowl.
We’ll have more numbers in a few weeks, but here are some interesting facts from Indy’s NCAA Tournament.
3,553 meals delivered
659 police escorts
14.2 tons of laundry done for teams
3,380 tracked news articles
886 million impressions
They absolutely crushed it, providing the level of amenities, service and personal touch that only Indy provides.
Like personal notes from grade schoolers welcoming teams to town. Like each team having a personal host. Like the chance to go to Victory Field, the zoo, Top Golf and more during their stay to get out of their rooms and have a good time. Like teams having shoppers who could fetch whatever they needed.
The Convention Center, which housed the practice courts and weight rooms, closed last March due to the pandemic and they wisely spent $7 million on health and safety upgrades. It then hosted volleyball and AAU basketball tournaments, which essentially served as a test run. Before NCAA Tournament games tipped off in March, Indy had hosted more than 50 live sporting events that brought 130,000 visitors to the city.
“Each one of those were a proof of concept that we could do ultimately what we’re doing now, and that’s moving people safely through Indianapolis,” said Chris Gahl, the senior vice president of marketing and communicants for Visit Indy.
On Wednesday, after 24 days, the NCAA officially moved out of the convention center.
Gahl joined me recently on the Fieldhouse Files podcast. You can listen to that entire conversation wherever you listen to podcasts, including the embedded player below.
And here is the annual video tribute we didn’t get last year: One Shining Moment.