NCAA tournament returns to Seattle, bringing millions of dollars with it

Mar 18, 2015, 6:41 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2015, 7:26 am
The NCAA flag flies atop Seattle’s Westin Hotel as Seattle welcomes the return of the NCAA ba...
The NCAA flag flies atop Seattle's Westin Hotel as Seattle welcomes the return of the NCAA basketball tournament for the first time in a decade. (Alan Alabastro photo)
(Alan Alabastro photo)

Seattle will be overrun this week by Anteaters, Panthers, Hawkeyes and Cardinals, not to mention Wildcats, Bison, Cowboys, and Bulldogs.

The invasion is welcome as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament returns to KeyArena for the first time in a decade, bringing teams and their fans from all over the country.

They’re expected to spend nearly $8 million on hotels, restaurants, rental cars and other things, giving the local economy a significant shot in the arm at what’s traditionally a slower time for the tourism industry, according to Visit Seattle, the private, nonprofit tourism agency that led the effort to help bring the NCAA tournament back.

Related: Who could beat undefeated Kentucky? Dick Vitale says Zags

“The business coming in is a great lift for a city that’s going to run maybe 80 percent on average this week. This will help push hotel occupancies and spending,” said Tom Norwalk, President and CEO of Visit Seattle.

More than 7,000 overnight visitors are expected to attend the games Friday and Sunday, generating 11,600 hotel room nights, according to Norwalk. The teams will encamp at different hotels, with officials staying at another hotel and the Westin Seattle serving as the championship headquarters.

“It’s exciting, a lot of people worked really hard to make this happen,” said Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission. “The games are totally sold out and if I had 5,000 more tickets, I could sell those too.”

The tournament is officially being hosted by the University of Washington, but it took an aggressive lobbying effort by Visit Washington, the SSC and other groups to lure the tournament back to town.

They [the NCAA] have to have great confidence that you and your host institution are going to do a great job at hosting the event,” Morton said. “It’s working with the venue to make sure they have all their ducks in a row. It’s the hotels, it’s the airport arrivals. There are so many aspects.”

More than 14,000 tickets have been sold for the games Friday and Sunday at KeyArena, roughly half to people from outside the area, according to the SSC. Having Gonzaga in the field is a huge boost, Norwalk said.

“The fan base travels. They’re excited. Knocking on wood without jinxing anything, they’re hopefully going to play Friday and Sunday, so fans will stay and spend,” Norwalk said.

Some economists have questioned the real economic impact of sporting events like the NCAA tournament. As Geoff Baker reported in The Seattle Times, cynics have a theory known as “displacement” in which the hotel rooms would have been occupied anyway and other groups would have come to town and spent similar money.

But Morton vehemently disputes that notion.

“Go ask Tom Douglas and all the other restaurants how they feel,” Morton said. “March is usually slower in Seattle. This week we’re hopping thanks to the tournament.”

The SSC and Visit Seattle hope a successful tournament helps land more major sporting events in the future, whether it’s NCAA basketball regionals, international soccer games, a major sailing championship or even a Super Bowl. Morton, Norwalk, and a number of other city and business leaders have traveled to the past two Super Bowls to lobby on the city’s behalf.

“We’re working on the world’s largest events. We’re looking at what we’re strong at here and saying how do we take advantage of that,” Morton said.

Here’s the lineup of games for the NCAA second and third round at KeyArena:

Friday, March 20

(5) Northern Iowa vs. (12) Wyoming at 10:40 a.m. PT

(4) Louisville vs. (13) UC Irvine at 1:10 p.m. PT

(7) Iowa vs. (10) Davidson at 4:20 p.m. PT

(2) Gonzaga vs. (15) North Dakota State at 6:50 p.m. PT

Sunday, March 22

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 at TBD time p.m.

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 at TBD time p.m.

Local News

bellevue...
MyNorthwest Staff

Explosions heard during fire in Bellevue

Several people in Bellevue reported hearing explosions in the area of a large fire Thursday night.
22 hours ago
crime, domestic violence...
MyNorthwest Staff

Four people killed in Tacoma shooting

Tacoma police say two women and two men were killed in a shooting Thursday.
22 hours ago
bike...
Kathryn Altena

King County Board of Health delays vote to repeal bike helmet law

After a public hearing on a proposed repeal of King County's bike helmet law, the county board of health decided to delay their vote.
22 hours ago
jim walsh, washington lawmaker...
Heather Bosch

Washington lawmaker is locked out of capitol over COVID vaccine mandate

A Washington state lawmaker says he's been locked out of the state capitol in Olympia over the COVID vaccine mandate.
22 hours ago
Sammamish...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sammamish scores top spot on list of best small US cities to live in

A new list has crowned Sammamish, Washington, the nation's best small city to live in, marking the latest in a string of recent accolades.
22 hours ago
world cup...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Seattle among cities competing for hosting duties in 2026 World Cup

Starting Thursday, World Cup officials will tour cities across the United States, including Seattle, to determine which venues will host games in 2026.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
NCAA tournament returns to Seattle, bringing millions of dollars with it