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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Big Red propels Big Ten tourney to record attendance

March 12, 2012
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Big Red helped propel the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament to a new attendance record in Indianapolis.

But not the Big Red most Hoosiers would think.

The biggest factor was the addition of Nebraska, which came to the Big Ten from the Big 12 conference this year. That’s right, Nebraska.

Not that Cornhuskers hoops is a huge draw. Rather, the addition of a 12th team meant six sessions this year instead of five. Tickets are purchased and counted separately for each session.

Thursday’s session now has two sessions with two games each. Previously, Thursday had one session featuring three games.

Nevertheless, conference and local tourism officials were thrilled with attendance of 107,737, smashing last year’s 86,767 and the Big Ten tournament record in Indianapolis of 94,402 set in 2002.

Take away the 17,125 from the sixth session—the championship game—and the five session total this year was 90,612.

That’s still a strong turnout. Tournament attendance hadn’t topped 90,000 here since 2006.

This year’s per-session attendance average—17,956—was second-highest in the tournament’s history in Indianapolis. Per-session attendance in 2006 was 18,152.

But the Hoosiers resurgence—along with a strong Purdue team—should get some of the credit this year. Consider, when the Hoosiers were at their lowest in 2009, attendance was a paltry 68,098 for a per-session average of 13,620.

The predicted economic impact for the tournament was $11.2 million, based on previous years’ attendance.

Downtown merchants reported stronger sales this year during the four-day tournament, and there’s reason to believe the impact could have surpassed $12 million.

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