Basketball brought big crowds to downtown Indianapolis over the weekend, with combined attendance at the NCAA Men’s Midwest Regional tournament and the high school boy’s state finals hitting nearly 100,000.
The NCAA event at Lucas Oil Stadium drew 69,874 – almost twice the attendance of any of the other regional NCAA events held concurrently in Boston, Memphis, and Glendale, Ariz.
It was the fourth-highest two-session attendance mark for any basketball regional in NCAA history. Attendance of 36,084 for the final game was the fourth-highest in regional history.
Two of the four teams that played in the Midwest Regional, the University of Louisville and Michigan State University, were within easy driving distance, helping boost the crowds.
The Michigan State Spartans, ranked No. 2 in the Midwest, pulled off a mild upset yesterday by defeating the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals, 64-52. Michigan State advances to this weekend’s Final Four in Detroit.
In between the Friday and Sunday college contests, Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday hosted four high school boys’ championship games, which collectively drew 29,250 fans. Total attendance was 11,569 for the morning session featuring the Class A and 2A matchups and 17,681 for the Class 3A and 4A evening games.
Total attendance had not dipped below the 30,000 mark since 2003, said Jason Wille, sports information director for the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
“It all depends on the teams involved and the communities,” he said, citing team support as the biggest factor driving attendance.
Winners were Jac-Cen-Del in Class A, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers in 2A, Princeton in 3A and Bloomington South in 4A.
Earlier this month, the struggling economy clearly affected attendance at this year’s Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, as ticket sales declined 15 percent from the previous year, according to Indiana Sports Corp. figures.
Tickets sold for the four-day tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis totaled 68,098, down from 80,012 in 2008.
Even more basketball fans are expected to congregate downtown next year, though, when Indianapolis hosts the NCAA Men’s Final Four.