Local ticket brokers and tourism officials are smiling Monday as players and fans for Michigan State University, Duke University, University of Louisville and University of Oregon pack their bags for the NCAA men's basketball regional in Indianapolis.
Games will be played Friday and Sunday, and many downtown hoteliers are already sold out of rooms.
Louisville and Oregon tip off the regional at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, followed by Duke and Michigan State at 9:45 p.m. The winners play Sunday for a berth in the Final Four.
Increasing the demand for hotel rooms is the National Society of Black Engineers convention, which is expected to attract more than 9,000 people to Indianapolis Wednesday through Saturday.
“In terms of hotel rooms, we expect Thursday through Sunday to be a virtual sellout downtown,” said Chris Gahl, spokesman for Visit Indy, the city’s tourism arm. “We expect the demand to push out this weekend quite a bit into the suburbs. After the teams qualified for the regional on Saturday and Sunday, we saw a definite uptick in room reservations in the suburban hotels.”
Officials for the Hyatt Regency said they saw a “considerable” increase in reservation requests from the Louisville and East Lansing, Mich., areas over the weekend.
“Our Web and phone reservation system definitely saw an uptick,” said Hyatt Regency General Manager Brian Comes. “We think this is a terrific bracket with a lot of intrigue. And having two teams with large followings within a short drive of here makes it that much better.”
Duke doesn’t have the huge student body or alumni base that generally helps drive ticket demand and sends a large contingency of visitors to a distant site. But it does have one thing going for it.
“Duke is a huge national brand, and that draws people from all over,” Gahl said.
Local ticket brokers said Duke’s inclusion is drawing inquiries not only from Duke alumni and supporters from its North Carolina home base, but also from Indianapolis and the surrounding areas.
One weekend game that didn't go the preferred way for local ticket brokers and hoteliers was Oregon's victory over St. Louis University. While Oregon is a big school with a solid following, Indianapolis tourism officials think it is a bit too far away to draw many visitors. St. Louis, on the other hand, is a drivable distance and has a hungry fan base.
Downtown hotel rooms for this weekend, according to Expedia, have been selling for about $175 on average, with rooms at the high end going for nearly $400.
“Demand for rooms has been very solid,” Comes said.
Lucas Oil Stadium will be configured to seat about 33,000. However, with university support staffs, broadcasters and corporate entertainment companies expected to descend on Indianapolis, Visit Indy officials think more than 40,000 people will visit the city for the two Sweet 16 games and one Elite Eight contest.
This weekend’s NCAA basketball regional is likely to have a $15 million economic impact, according to Visit Indy.
Sports economists said the impact could have been even bigger had Indiana University played its Sweet 16 game in Indianapolis instead of Washington, D.C. While many IU followers wouldn’t have purchased hotel rooms, the sheer number flocking downtown, eating at restaurants, and buying merchandise could have pushed the economic impact up as much as $1.5 million, economists predicted. Ticket brokers, in particular, were hurt by the NCAA decision to ship IU elsewhere.
Ticket demand—and prices on the secondary market—for the regional dropped 15 percent to 30 percent last week after the announcement that IU would be headed to Washington, brokers said.
While local brokers said demand won’t recover that entire decline, there has been some rebound.
Upper-level, all-session tickets with a face value of $90 were selling for $125-plus Monday morning and lower-level tickets with a face value of $160 were selling for $350-plus, said Scott Kinnett, principal with Sport Events Ltd.
“The demand is actually better than I thought,” Kinnett said. “It certainly could have been a lot worse. We’ve got two good teams in Michigan State and Louisville, and with Louisville being the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament, a lot of people from that area are buying tickets and making plans believing they’ll definitely make the regional final.”
There’s a marked difference in ticket-sales activity from a week ago, said Mike Peduto, partner with Circle City Tickets.
“Last week, we had a lot of [IU] people wanting to sell and very few people buying,” Peduto said. “This week, we have a lot of inquiries about purchasing tickets, and people are actually buying.”
While Peduto said some of the worst seats in the house are selling for only $10 above face value, he added that his company “had quite a few” quality seats selling for double face value.
“We saw a rush of sales activity last night and we’re seeing a big rush today,” Peduto said. “Michigan State and Louisville are definitely driving demand up, so the market is going to be a little better than we thought it was going to be a week ago.”
One other thing is helping ticket demand, Peduto said.
“The fact that IU is playing on [different] nights as the games here helps,” he said. “With that, a lot of people are saying, 'Hey, the matchups here are good; we’re basketball fans, so let’s go watch some good games live.’”