March Madness: NCAA First Four to spur economic growth in Dayton


Next week’s NCAA First Four tournament returns to the University of Dayton Arena, bringing in thousands of fans and generating more than $4 million in direct spending at gas stations, bars, restaurants and other businesses.

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship starts with four first-round games on Tuesday, March 14, and Wednesday, March 15 at UD, but the hoopla starts this weekend with several community events. Based on last year’s tournament, the event could bring in more than $4.5 million in direct spending, said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau.

UD has hosted the games since the First Four’s inception back in 2011, and the university’s history with the NCAA goes back farther than that. UD has the tipped off March Madness for 16 consecutive years, and has hosted more than 30 NCAA tournaments. According to a 2015 report, the NCAA has delivered more than $70 million in direct impact in surrounding communities.

» RELATED: Davidson stuns Dayton Flyers in A-10 tournament

“The NCAA Tournament is big fun for fans and a big economic boost for Ohio,” said Gov. John Kasich in a statement. “As the home of the tip-off for the tournament for the last 15 years, Dayton has proven it has the people, experience and enthusiasm to put on a world-class effort, and I look forward to seeing it continue to play a big role in future tournaments.”

Preparations are underway for the influx of business expected in the area. The little details add up to create a tailored experience for teams coming to play at UD arena. Red carpets are rolled out for arriving players and bag pipers will play each team’s fight song, Powell said.

“Our organization works very hard to make sure that the student athletes receive a warm welcome when they arrive,” she said. “Every year, there’s a tremendous effort to make sure we’re doing everything possible to create a great atmosphere, and ensure we bring this event to Dayton in the future.”

» RELATED: 5 things to know about NCAA First Four tournament in Dayton

UD Arena has hosted more NCAA events than any other facility in the nation, and Dayton has been in the NCAA’s top 5 in attendance every season since 1969. The First Four will be played at UD Arena at least through 2018.

“They’ve got this incredible track record that goes back to the opening round… and the local organizing committee there has just gotten stronger and more committed each and every year,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president for men’s basketball, in a statement.

The Big Hoopla, the nonprofit of the local First Four organizing committee, is comprised of Dayton business leaders like Dayton Development Coalition President Jeff Hoagland, Downtown Dayton Partnership Sandy Gudorf and JP Nauseef, president and CEO of Krush Technologies.

The tournament is a win for the Dayton area because the NCAA brings national brand recognition and unmatched media coverage, putting the city in front of thousands of viewers, organizers said.

» RELATED: What are the Dayton Flyers’ odds of winning a national championship?

Last March, the tournament was the most-watched program on cable TV, and at least one of the four winning teams of the First Four advanced beyond the next round for the sixth consecutive year.

“Dayton is home to America’s No. 1 host site and America’s most passionate college basketball fans,” Nauseef said. “The region’s commitment to the NCAA Tournament has no equal. This fact seems to further demonstrate Dayton is America’s choice.”

And for businesses, it means a week of hungry, thirsty fans who are ready to root for their favorite team. Mark Specht, the owner of Balloons Galore & Gifts in Springboro, is one of the businesses that have prospered from the event. Specht will deliver hundreds of balloons in the colors of every team selected for the tournament.

“We’ve done it for many years, ever since the tournament has been here. We’re prepared and organized,” he said. “We get them to each team and it’s another way to say, ‘Welcome to Dayton, folks.’”

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