The Money Behind March Madness


Columbus is preparing to be at the center of the college basketball world as the Men’s NCAA tournament kicks off Friday at Nationwide Arena.  Eight teams were selected to play in Columbus and fans are expected to spend millions of dollars.
Nationwide Arena is a beehive of activity as crews work to lay down the wooden court for the NCAA Basketball tournament.
Bradley Cleveland, Director of Operations for Nationwide Arena, say the court arrived last weekend and crews have been working around the clock to prepare for the week’s events.  15 pallets of hardwood owned by the NCAA will become the playing surface for a tournament that may put Columbus on the basketball map. Underneath is the ice for the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is protected by an insulating plastic.
This is fourth time Columbus has hosted a NCAA tournament, with the last appearance in 2012.
For businesses like Nada, located directly across the street from the Arena, the tournament is like Christmas in spring.
“We’re definitely looking for a spike in business with all the foot traffic and  hotels around the area and the restaurateurs that I’ve talked with, we’re definitely in for a busy 4 to 5 days,” says Jared Bitner, General Manager of Nada.
Columbus is expected to rake in some $10 million in visitor spending, according to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.
However, the event is not a sell out — yet.
“We’re rooting for Dayton; that will help,” says Matt Colahan of  Tickets Galore in Dublin.  He says tickets are selling for between $95 and $125 in the arena’s lower bowl.
But ticket brokers say that could change if a team like West Virginia or Dayton make to Sunday.
“If we see a big push from West Virginia, Maryland and Dayton, those tickets may dry up,” Colahan explains.
Seven downtown hotels will serve as team headquarters for the eight schools invited in the tournament.  Teams are coming from as far away as Oklahoma, Maryland, and Providence.
Fans of the eight college basketball teams with opening-round matchups played at Nationwide Arena can cheer on their schools in the friendly confines of one of the four host bars in the Arena District. Alumni and fans of these schools can set up shop to cheer for their team with other fans at any of these four Columbus restaurants.
Bitner says all of the fans will need to eat somewhere and sees the tournament as a slam dunk for business.   “We’re really, really thrilled for what’s going to happen.”
The tournament isn’t just big business for Columbus, but for the state as well.  Ohio is the only state with two regional tournaments, with Cleveland as the other location.
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