COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - March Madness is coming to Columbia. The University of South Carolina will be hosting NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games in 2019.
Colonial Life Arena will host first and second-round games on March 22 and 24, 2019. Columbia last hosted NCAA games in 1970.
"The Road to the Final Four passes through Columbia beginning in 2019 and we hope for a long time to come thereafter," University of South Carolina President Dr. Harris Pastides said. "Everybody has known we've been a great basketball town. We have a great basketball tradition. We stand on the shoulders of people who came before us."
Officials with the university and city say hosting the tournament games will also carry an economic impact for the Columbia area and bring in more than $10 million for the city and its many businesses.
"It's been pretty evident that the economy of South Carolina, specifically Columbia has been getting better lately and that would be just another huge boost for the city and the state," USC junior Jack Lawson said.
Meanwhile, many area basketball fans are eagerly anticipating the tournament action.
"I think it's awesome it's really good for the city overall," USC sophomore Noah Holzberg said.
Because the scheduling format is different for women's college basketball, the Gamecocks' women's team secured early-round NCAA tournament games at Colonial Life Arena for several seasons.
"Our community is going to benefit tremendously by having an event like this in town. Here's the beautiful part, something that I learned five years ago. When you're not from here, you only know what you hear," Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin said. "When people from around the country actually come in here and see what an unbelievable city this is and what beautiful people we have in this community, and this beautiful campus that we get to show off for everyone to see, it's a win-win for everybody."
The NCAA also announced Greenville will host first and second-round games in 2022.
Other South Carolina sites announced for NCAA events include:
- The 2018 men's and women's cross country regional, at Winthrop Recreation Complex in Rock Hill
- The 2019 first and second rounds, men's basketball tournament, Colonial Life Arena in Columbia
- The 2019 men's golf regional at TPC Myrtle Beach, hosted by Coastal Carolina
- The 2020 women's basketball regional at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville
- The 2020 men's golf regional at Cliffs at Keowee Falls hosted by Clemson
- The 2022 first and second rounds, men's basketball tournament, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville