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ABC 27 at the NCAA Tournament: Indy businesses grateful for tourney business

Posted at 10:34 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-27 13:39:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTXL) — To cover the NCAA Tournament and the Florida State men's basketball team's push for a national championship, ABC 27 Sports Director Alison Posey is in Indianapolis to cover all things Seminoles and college basketball.

Alison spoke with someone with the City of Indianapolis Friday and he said it best, "this city was made for this moment, the city was built to host major sporting events and you can't get much bigger than the NCAA Tournament."

"Looking at this opportunity, it's incredible to bring people back to work," said Nate Swick with Visit Indy. "Bringing hotel workers back, bringing restaurant workers back. That's a first for a lot of these organizations who didn't know if they could even open their doors again. Big win for the city and the economic impact as well."

Swick said they don't know exactly how much money they'll bring into the city with the tournament, as it's never been exclusively in one city before, but he said it will be a "healthy nine-figure economic impact."

The tournament kicked off last weekend and more than 100,000 people attended games throughout the entire weekend.

Hotel occupancy in downtown Indianapolis was at 96 percent, a number that led the entire country.

With COVID forcing local businesses to limit how they served customers, having the tournament in Indianapolis is a breath of fresh air and just the spark many of them needed.

"We're directly across the street from Banker's Life [Fieldhouse] so we'll see a lot of foot traffic from all the NCAA games," said Steve Kelly, Regional Manager of Kilroy's.

It's foot traffic that Kelly said he is thankful for.

COVID-19 forced Kilroy's to completely shut down last year for a month and a half. No inside dining. No take-out. Nothing.

"We did shut down for approximately 4-6 weeks," said Kelly. "The prior year to this year is a very, very significant amount of loss."

Now Kilroy's and others are seeing an uptick in business since the NCAA Tournament started last weekend.

Harry and Izzy's is an upscale restaurant in downtown Indianapolis.

"With the games being on the weekends, the weekends have been the busiest for us," said Allen Long, General Manager of Harry and Izzy's. "It's been a big boost for our staff, our employees."

Indianapolis now has employees that are back to work, and working hard, thanks to the NCAA Tournament.

"We got a bartop," said Kelly. "Our bartenders are finally serving someone at the bar. We haven't had that in almost a year."

"That's one thing we're all big on is making sure we are protecting our staff and our guests," said Allen. "There's no better time to showcase that than with the influx of people in town with the NCAA Tournament."

Restaurants in downtown Indianapolis moved from 50 percent capacity to 75 percent two weeks ago, which is perfect timing to open those bartops and get more patrons in those restaurants.

There are a lot of street vendors getting set up for the weekend ahead, and no Florida State fans just yet, but Alison said she would keep her eyes peeled for garnet and gold.

Alison also met the mascot of the Butler University Bulldogs, which located in Indianapolis.

Blue IV is a year and a half-year-old Bulldog and he's the self-proclaimed Mayor of March.

Legend has it that he actually wrote a letter for people to give to their bosses that would allow them to take the month off to watch hoops.

You can follow all of Alison's updates from the tournament on social media.

On Facebook search "Sports Director Alison Posey WTXL" and on Twitter, you can follow her at @AlisonPosey14.