INDIANAPOLIS — The St. Patrick’s Day weekend celebration began with a more modest greening of the downtown canal Thursday morning as a faulty fountain pump near Ohio Street relegated Indianapolis firefighters to spray non-toxic dye into the water.

Joel Reitz at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant said he expects major crowds to belly up to his bar for beers and bangers & mash this weekend.

“We have live bagpipers at 7 o’clock at night tomorrow which should be a lot of fun, gonna have them roll through at night,” Reitz said.

In 2020, Reitz’s pub emptied out as Big 10 tournament games just down the street at Gainbridge Fieldhouse were canceled minutes before tip-off due to the first signs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A year later, fans were back as Indianapolis was headquarters for the entire NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and last year the city hosted regional play.

There’ll be no tournament games in Indy this spring.

Still, said Reitz that March Madness brings a buzz to downtown.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “We can watch games in public again finally, it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Though the first day was mostly a washout, The Bottleworks District is hosting basketball fans on Carrollton Avenue alongside the Garage Food Hall.

“We’ve got our large LED screens set up at either end, we’re gonna have additional TVs inside the Garage Food Hall and in the Coca-Cola VIP Lounge down here as well,” said Ryan Hickey, the director of entertainment and programming at the Bottleworks. “There’s a huge appetite in this area for college basketball and, of course, the first couple days of the NCAA tournament are exciting for everybody so we’ve got a great crowd out here, everybody comes out and eats and drinks and has a great time.”

Ben Belt and Lauren Upchurch were a pair of West Virginia fans who braved the overcast skies and chilly temperatures to enjoy cold beers while watching the Mountaineers play on the big screen outdoors.

“It’s just been on the bucket list for a long time to do since they started and this is just the first year that it worked out,” said Upchurch. “So, here we are.”

“I took the day off work to do this,” said Belt. “My boss is a basketball fan so he knows what I’m doing. He was okay with it.”

Hickey said he expects a lot more people to play hooky from work to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and watch basketball tomorrow.

“We know that the Thursday and Friday of the first couple days of the NCAA Tournament a lot of sick days being taken, a lot of empty offices,” he said. “We actually have some corporate groups coming down here to watch the games here so I think that’s a good combination of bring the office down here, we’ve got everything you need.”

Indiana University and Purdue don’t start their tournament runs until late Friday afternoon and evening.