Marquette’s first-round ousting from the NCAA tournament may have left fans with sour tastes in their mouths, but Milwaukee still had a solid showing in the opening rounds of this year’s March Madness.
The Bradley Center sold out all six games it hosted — four on Friday and two on Sunday, said Jim Nasiopulos, Marquette’s associate athletic director for facilities and even management. He served as Milwaukee’s NCAA tournament manager.
Dave Fantle, vice president of public relations for VISIT Milwaukee, said holding events like NCAA tournament games is a tourist promoter’s dream.
“I’d call it a slam dunk,” he said.
Visitors spent an estimated $2.2 million over the weekend, with an estimated 3,500 hotel rooms booked associated with the tournament games, Fantle said.
The biggest economic beneficiaries include downtown restaurants and bars, retail outlets like Mayfair Mall and other attractions like breweries who conduct tours and museums, Fantle said.
Having a full day between games also helped people get out to see the city, he said.
Marquette’s role as host centered around making sure its volunteers and Bradley Center staff complied with a 387-page manual the NCAA hands out to host cities, Nasiopulos said.
The host institution is also in charge of employing game management staff, including security, ushers and catering services, he said.
The NCAA takes applications from prospective host cities years in advance. The NCAA considers an institution’s facility, nearby hotel space and the venue’s finances. Marquette hopes to host tournament games again in 2014, 2015 or 2016, Nasiopulos said. NCAA employees were in Milwaukee last weekend to observe Marquette’s operation, he said.
Nasiopulos said the teamwork between Marquette, the Bradley Center and the city was integral in bringing tournament games to the city.
Milwaukee has also held NCAA tournament games at the Bradley Center in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2004, in addition to an NCAA women’s regional in 2002. Fantle said previous events have allowed the city to develop a track record of success in hosting games.
Sporting events are necessary to help bolster tourism in places like Milwaukee that have few funds for advertising, Fantle said. The events help expose people to the city and make visitors more likely to return for conventions, long weekends or summer festivals, he said.
Fantle said there are four winners when the NCAA holds games in Milwaukee: the teams advancing to the Sweet 16 (Ohio State and Xavier this year), the basketball fans that watched the games and the Milwaukee community, which reaped the economic benefit of hosting the games.
Other teams that played in Milwaukee were University of California-Santa Barbara, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Oakland, Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh.