COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia held the NCAA regional tournament in March for the first time in 49 years, and if you'll pardon the pun, it was a financial "slam dunk,' bringing in $11 million to the region.
First and Second Round games were held at the Colonial Life Arena off Lincoln Street in Columbia back in March.
According to Bill Ellen, President and CEO of Experience Columbia, not only did the tournament bring Columbia exposure, but it was also the most attended round one and two game in the country. They also saw the largest TV audience in 14 years.
Ellen continued the city is already putting together a new bid to host games again in 2023-2026.
"We're in that bid process now. I think we, as I mentioned earlier, we can build on success we enjoyed for this March and improve where we can. Just look forward to the NCAA looking very favorably on what we did in the past and what we will continue to do and we look forward to the return of March Madness," Ellen said after the press conference.
The city will submit its new bid in February and then find out if it won in the fall of 2020.
Kelly Barbery, VP for Tourism for Marketing for Experience Columbia, said in the press conference that the event was a huge success. According to Barbery, the initial economic impact was around 9 million dollars.
There were over 100 community events and dozens of local businesses were involved.
Thomas Regan, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies for Sport and Entertainment Management, conducted a study and compiled the economic impact from the NCAA event.
The direct economic impact from games one and two, according to the study, was 11.3 million dollars in new economic benefits for the city.
The overall paid attendance was 47,977 individuals for the three sessions, the highest of the eight first and second round sites in the country.
It was one of the highest attended regional events, and Columbia hosted people from 33 different states and 2 different countries.
The tournament also brought 245 permanent job equivalents to Columbia.
According to Experience Columbia SC, they’re working on another bid packet for the next 4 year run of March Madness games, starting in 2023.
Charles Bloom is the Executive Associate Athletics Director/Chief of Staff for USC athletics.
"We were entrusted with one of the most revered sporting events, sporting franchises in the country, and we passed with flying colors," said Bloom.
Colonial Life was opened in 2002 and held one of it's highest profile events in 2018.
Tameika Issac Devine, City Councilwoman, spoke on behalf of the City of Columbia.
"We had 11.3 million dollars of new dollars coming into our city which meant our restaurants benefited, our hotels benefited, our local merchants benefited," said Devine.
Devine noted that the money made during the tournament turns over in the community and benefits and strengthens the community.
The City of Columbia said planning-wise that it will focus on transportation and hotels to strengthen the city to host events like this one in the future.