Officials of Visit Indy, the city’s convention and tourism arm, were smiling broadly as the teams playing in this year’s Final Four were determined.
“It’s near picture-perfect for us,” said Vice President Chris Gahl. “We have two teams in Michigan State and Wisconsin that are used to coming here, are familiar with the city and are within easy driving distance. We have a well-established brand like Duke, which has a strong fan following. And we have Kentucky, which has a strong fan following, is within driving distance, and they’re going for the undefeated season.”
Visit Indy officials are so optimistic about the upcoming Final Four on April 3-6 that Gahl thinks the original estimate of $71 million in economic impact could be a bit low.
“We’ve been marketing to some of these markets for a long time,” Gahl said, adding that Visit Indy pitches to parts of Kentucky “12 months a year. We couldn’t ask for a better scenario.”
If visitor spending at this year’s Final Four ramps up as now expected, the economic impact of this year’s Final Four could exceed the city’s last Final Four in 2010 by as much as $25 million. Local officials say that’s in part because there’s now so much more to do in the city during Final Four weekend.
The NCAA has been working for several years to increase activities surrounding the Final Four, including a multi-day music festival, children’s activities, a 5K run, increased corporate hospitality and more.
Sunday night, Visit Indy started reaching out to media in the four markets represented where the schools in the Final Four reside. Visit Indy also is paying to launch an online ad campaign that will run through the week. The agency’s overarching message is, you don’t have to have tickets to enjoy the festivities.
Lucas Oil Stadium is expected to be packed with about 70,000 fans for Saturday’s semi-final games and Monday’s championship, but Visit Indy expects as many as 150,000 people will descend on downtown this weekend.
“There’s a lot to do downtown along Georgia Street, at White River State Park and other parts of the city,” Gahl said. “We think a lot of fans will come here just to be a part of the atmosphere. It’s about being part of the overall experience.”
Already, the 7,100 hotel rooms downtown are sold out, and Gahl expects 95-percent occupancy throughout central Indiana.
“We think there will be significant activity in the suburban hotels, all the way to Columbus, Bloomington and Lafayette,” he said.
While the games have long been sold out, several ticket brokers on the secondary market reported near-record activity since the Final Four teams were determined, with most of the activity coming from Kentucky fans.
Local ticket brokers also have received a good amount of requests from Michigan State and Wisconsin fans. But unlike Kentucky fans, who are seeking tickets for Saturday’s and Monday’s games, most of the Wisconsin and MSU fans are seeking tickets for Saturday only, ticket brokers said.
If Wisconsin upsets Kentucky on Saturday, you can bet there will be a glut of tickets on the secondary market as UK fans look to unload their tickets.