March Madness reels in more than $11 million into the Midlands

More people attended First and Second Round games in Columbia than any other tournament site

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —March Madness may have passed over the Midlands eight months ago, but the city is still embracing the economic impact it left behind.

Experience Columbia SC revealed the city brought in $11.3 million as a result of hosting the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The results came from an economic impact study performed by Dr. Thomas Regan of the University of South Carolina.

The study found that 47,977 fans came through Colonial Life Arena throughout a four-day stretch back in March. 

Whether it was the quality of basketball on the court or the welcoming nature of the people, some in the city say this year’s March Madness exceeded all of their expectations.

“This was the first time we hosted the event in 49 years, since 1970. We had great exposure, we had the most attendance of any Round One and Two games than any other sites throughout the country,” said Bill Ellen, the President and CEO of Experience Columbia SC.

Initially, city officials thought that the tournament would only bring in about $9 million.

However, with teams like Duke and the ultimate national champion Virginia taking the court, more fans got to experience what March Madness was all about.

“It’s exciting to say the road to the Final Four and National Championship began right here in Columbia, South Carolina,” Ellen said.

Some city leaders say the athletes and coaches weren’t the only stars that made the Capital City a memorable host.

“Our restaurants benefited, our hotels benefited, our local merchants benefited. This money turns over so many times in our community, which in turn helps strengthen our community, and they saw why we are known as famously hot, but also surprisingly cool,” said Tameika Isaac Devine, the Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Columbia.

The economic impact study also found that an additional $1.38 million came into the state through indirect business taxes. The tournament also led to 245 equivalent permanent jobs in the Columbia metropolitan region.

Experience Columbia SC looks to recapture the madness down the road as it looks to bring the tournament back to the Midlands.

“I would hope we would take this year’s blueprint and work from that, I think the numbers and the attendance and the excitement from the NCAA proved that what we did was a good way to do it,” Ellen said.

Experience Columbia SC is in the process of filing its bid to the NCAA to host future tournament games. The earliest the Capital City could host March Madness again would be in 2023.

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