KANSAS CITY — Downtown Kansas City has been benefiting from back-to-back waves of basketball.
Just a couple of days after serving as host for 120,000 people over the four-day run of the Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament, the Sprint Center is now preparing for the NCAA tournament and a second wave of packed hotels and restaurants and a downtown entertainment district flooded with fans, as eight teams try to advance in the NCAA basketball tournament, The Kansas City Star reported.
Nick Benjamin, executive director of the Power & Light District, said the crowds attracted to his venue for the Big 12 tournament and St. Patrick's Day were the biggest in the five-year history of the entertainment district.
"The past five days are the best five days we've ever had," he said.
Benjamin estimated 130,000 people visited the Kansas City Live Block and 14th Street, which was closed during the tournament, between Wednesday and Saturday. They went through 300,000 cups during the event.
College basketball fans from several states now have their sights on Kansas City and the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament starting Thursday. The NCAA brackets had only been set for 30 minutes or so Sunday night when the phone inside the sales office at Kansas City's The Hilton President started ringing.
"It's going to be packed," Philip Strnad, general manager of The Hilton President, said Monday. "We're sold out from Wednesday night on."
Rick Hughes, president and CEO of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, said businesses have it all down pat by now.
"I think most of hotels and restaurant understand the magnitude of the business," Hughes said. "They know they have to be staffed up and stocked up. They really are prepared."
Jim Watry, district manager of the KC Live area in the Power & Light District, prepares all year for March tournaments, his busiest time of year. That includes hiring 65 temporary workers for restaurants and bars, making repairs and putting in new equipment
Carol Pecoraro, general manager at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, said perhaps some of the customers will return during other months too.
"You hope all these people come back sometime when there's not a basketball tournament," Pecoraro said.