The Indiana Sports Corp says hosting the entire 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament paid off for central Indiana. During its State of Sports event today, the organization said March Madness generated $46.5 million in economic impact not just for Indianapolis, but other host cities including Bloomington and West Lafayette. About 66,000 “unique” fans descended on central Indiana to watch the games with reduced capacity rules in place, according to a study from Pennsylvania-based Rockport Analytics.
The tournament saw a total attendance of nearly 175,000 spectators.
During the virtual event hosted by WISH-TV Sports Director Anthony Calhoun, ISC President Ryan Vaughn said the tournament had a different effect than the previous Final Four events Indy has hosted.
“The Final Four is a very special opportunity for us to sort of display our heritage, invite people in, and we leverage that moment to attract other business and other sporting events,” said Vaughn. “But, this one in particular was special because it wasn’t just one weekend. It was literally the world’s eyes on us for every bit of three and a half weeks and this sort of amazing, national, cultural event. So, people got to Indy sometimes for the first time. Sometimes, they were reminded who we are. But, it was all very positive.”
Speaking on the economic impact of the tournament, Vaughn says it is important to point out the time in which the event happened.
“$41 million spent on hotels and food and restaurants, travel, entertainment, all at time, frankly, where had it not been for the tournament, very little, if any, would be spent,” he said. “I mean, there was a point in time during the pandemic when many of these hotels had three employees. To fast forward a year from there and be able to open up all these hotels, to open up these restaurants, get them off reduced hours, put people back to work, that’s the real human story.”
Calhoun also spoke to CBS Sports Reporter Tracy Wolfson, who said she thinks having the entire tournament in one city could become an annual event.
“I think it can definitely happen and Indianapolis proved that, and I can see it happening in Indianapolis every four years, a rotation,” she said. “I really love the fact that a fan can come to one place and decided last minute what game they want to see according to what happened in the bracket.”
Vaughn says Indianapolis was able to immediately transition to other major sporting events following March Madness, including the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials and the Indianapolis 500. Just last weekend, the city hosted the Big Ten Football Championship game, which was the second-largest attended football game at Lucas Oil Stadium, behind the 2012 Super Bowl.
Vaughn will talk more about the State of Sports with Bill Benner this weekend on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story listed the unique attendance at 175,000 people.