NCAA Tournament is big business for restaurants, hotels

10:19 AM, Mar 15, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The back-to-back combo of St. Patrick's Day and March Madness mean a busy week for downtown Cleveland businesses.

At Flannery's Pub on East 4th Street, preparing for a crowd is nothing new this time of year.

"With St. Patrick's Day, we're used to the craziness, but when it comes to the NCAA Tournament the next day, you can't complain when you're making money," said general manager Sean O'Donnell.

Businesses in the blocks surrounding Quicken Loans Arena are readying for tens of thousands of basketball fans this weekend.

Not only are Friday and Sunday's games selling out, most hotels in the vicinity are booked.

Across from the arena, the Residence Inn has been booked for months.

"And they're all going to look for somewhere to go eat. We're going to try to be that place," says Robert Shoens, manager of the Winking Lizard Tavern.

In the Gateway District, the Winking Lizard Tavern will go off the usual menu, and serve breakfast to hungry fans headed to the games.

This is the third time the tournament has come to Cleveland, the other years being 2000 and 2005.

In 2005, the games were held at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center. The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission estimates fans poured $9 million into the local economy that year and the economic impact may be greater this time.

Each game of the 2005 tournament seated 13,000 fans. The Q is seating 20,000 fans per game.

Teams like Ohio State, Xavier and Syracuse are known for their traveling fans, and with St. Patrick's Day falling on the day before tip off, the hope is that many will stay in Cleveland for an extended weekend.

The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission says with eight strong teams in town, the second and third rounds of the tournament could create a bigger impact than if the Final Four were here.

"It's great for Cleveland. Generates a lot of new revenue for stores and the city, too. Anything that draws people to Cleveland is great," Shoens said.



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