INDIANAPOLIS — Big Ten basketball is back in the Circle City. The women’s tournament kicked off Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the men’s tournament begins Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The two tournaments will draw thousands of fans to Indianapolis before the NCAA tournaments next week, and local businesses are hoping for a much needed boost in revenue.
Massive March Madness brackets are already on display in downtown Indy. Next week, those brackets will start to fill out as tournament play gets underway.
Every shot of every game will be played in Indiana with the majority of the games to take place in Indianapolis.
This year, game day gear and “pregaming” is very different.
“I got my shots. Both of them seven weeks ago and I made sure when we came in, washing our hands and watching what we touch and don’t touch. Using the mask and the shield and separation,” said Illinois fan Lorita Myles. She came to the Circle City to watch her granddaughter play.
Jeff Huron is the general manager of the District Tap downtown which is just feet away from Bankers Life.
“This is as close to the court [you can get] without actually having a ticket,” said Huron.
Just last week, the city loosened restrictions to allow 50% capacity in bars and 75% for indoor restaurants. Closing time also changed to 2 a.m. instead of midnight.
“Just this past weekend was a record post-COVID weekend,” Huron remarked. “So there’s definitely more people outside, more foot traffic. You see more cars going up and down. It’s almost like everyone’s coming out of hibernation and ready to have a good time again.”
Georgia Street is closed down so restaurants can extend outdoor seating. District tap is planning to put up its tent Wednesday morning.
The tournaments are expected to generate up to $100 million, bringing a much needed boost to hotels, bars and restaurants.
“This definitely helps us kind of get back in the game and some money to the bottom line,” expressed Huron.
Indy will be at center court as the sports world will not only be watching for the scores but also to see how our city successfully and safely handles all of March Madness.
We want to make sure everyone is staying safe and having a good time, and I think we will be a good example for other events going forward,” said Huron.
The NCAA is capping fan capacity at 25%. Earlier this week, IMPD announced additional security cameras and extra patrols will be put into place to keep downtown safe.