COLUMBIA, S.C. — (WLTX) -- It has been nearly 50 years since Columbia was selected to host the March Madness tournament, but it wasn’t a slam dunk. It took a lot of planning and work.
“You may fill out a bracket yourself, if you don’t I know you know someone, CEO and President of Experience Columbia SC Bill Ellen said. "There are millions of people that obviously won’t be at the game but are interested in the what happens in March Madness and they track it so it’s a huge event for the Columbia region.”
It has been almost 50 years since the last time March Madness was in Columbia. For years the city was passed over as the NCAA honored the NAACP’s boycott of the state over the flying of the confederate flag on the state house grounds.
“Last time was in 1970, 49 years ago," Ellen said. "With obviously the lifting of the boycott for the state of South Carolina opened the door to hosting a NCAA event.”
Ellen said they have been planning for this event for years. They put in a bid and from there worked with hotels, USC for the venue and every NCAA requirement they needed.
"Definitely it's history in the making," Ellen said. And I don’t know how well we would have done it 49 years ago. If you think about the venue of the arena and its location with in the vista and downtown we can offer the things the NCAA and basketball fans are looking for.”
Ellen said the biggest challenge was getting all the hotels lined up for the teams. But now he is ready to see our city shine and show the NCAA what it has to offer.
“There’s usually a 15 seed that upsets," Ellen said. "Last year I think they had a 16 seed beat a 1 seed so who knows, maybe there will be some of that Cinderella magic in Columbia.”
This tournament is estimated to bring between 9 and 11 million dollars into the community. Ellen is hoping Columbia will be able to host the tournament again. The next opportunity to do that would be in 2023.