While the UC Davis Aggies are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time, Sacramento will be hosting eight other teams for the first time in a decade at the new Golden 1 Center.
"The first thing was to get the new arena built," said Mike Sophia, Director of the Sacramento Sports Commission. "NCAA's always loved Sacramento. [We have] great history with championships. It was just a matter of getting the building."
Sophia said they're expecting people to spend more than $5 million this weekend, but beyond that is the exposure.
"Millions of people around the country [will be] watching," said Sophia. "Success for us to pull it off in a really big way is to see the excitement and not just to bring the NCAA back, but other groups back. When people see Sacramento, we want them to think 'Yeah! I haven't been there in awhile. I wanna go back.'"
So, why should locals who aren't sports fans care about March Madness in Sacramento?
"They should care for the economic impact. When folks stay in hotel rooms, they pay for a transient occupancy tax. That money goes into the city and county's general fund," explained Mike Testa, COO of Visit Sacramento. "That fund pays for police, fire, improves our park, and improves our road."
Just from the teams booking rooms, 3,500 rooms so far have been booked all throughout the region, even in areas like Rocklin, Roseville and Davis. And that doesn't count the fans. Teams include players, coaches, medical staff, cheerleaders, etc.
With the CAL HOSA Health conference in town, the same weekend, Testa estimated about 7,500 rooms have been booked total.
"It's a perfect storm," said Testa. "A good problem to have. Hotels are going to be at a premium."
Testa adds that the national exposure will attract even more visitors, which in turn adds more money to that fund.
"Sacramento will be on TV for all those games," said Testa. "Bumper shots, showing great scenery, the tower bridge."
So, do the teams that come into town matter?
"Oregon, UCLA, we knew were probably Sac bound," said Sophia." To have those teams, [we already have] great fan bases in the community. And they're regional, so people are able to fly and drive easily. That's a great draw."
Sophia adds that having traditional NCAA basketball schools like Creighton will also add to the appeal.
Testa estimates close to 15,000 visitors in town between the tournament and the medical convention. The hotels will have tourist information and marketing material, especially since there are no games on Saturday and people may want to explore.
"The great thing about our city, when folks walk outside, there's enough energy," said Testa. "Combined with St. Patty's Day, Sac is going to be jumping this weekend."
The end goal, of course, is to bring the tournament back in the future.
"This is our change to show off a bit," said Sophia. "We want to be part of the rotation for sure. Typically NCAA goes back to sites every 3 to 4 years or so."
Sophia added that Sacramento is in the process of another NCAA sports bid that we will hear about mid-April.
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