March Madness proves to be a slam dunk for Columbia’s economy

March Madness proves to be a slam dunk for Columbia’s economy
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) drives against Central Florida's Terrell Allen to shoot a layup during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, S.C. Sunday, March 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro) (Source: Richard Shiro)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - March Madness proved to be a big win for the Capital City.

On Wednesday, tourism officials released the economic numbers generated from the four-day Regional basketball tournament at Colonial Life Arena this past March.

Officials said it added up to a direct impact of 11.3 million dollars for the city, with tourists and fans visiting hotels and restaurants, and people stopping by local businesses and participating in basketball-themed events.

Nearly 48,000 fans attended the first- and second-round games making it the highest attended regional in the country.

Officials said Duke’s appearance in Columbia featuring freshman phenom Zion Williamson proved to be a big draw. They also pointed out the University of Virginia began its championship run here in Columbia. City leaders hope the success of March Madness this time, bodes well for the tournament potentially returning to town.

Bill Ellen, the President and CEO of Experience Columbia, said praise for the city came from all parties involved.

“If you remember Coach K from Duke talked about what a beautiful great city Columbia was, the NCAA President also made a comment that we did it the right way,” Ellen said.

“I think we just build on the success we had here this past March”

Tourism officials also said they are in the process of putting together a bid to the NCAA that is due in February, for the basketball tournament to potentially return at any point from 2023 to 2026. They said they expect an answer in October of next year.

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