Indy awaits Big Ten fans to launch college basketball tournament season

Big Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS — With an anticipated $8 million economic impact on the line for Indianapolis, the college tournament basketball season is tipping off downtown.

The Big Ten Women’s Tournament began Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the Big Ten Men’s Tournament starting Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Due to the late availability of ticket information, college basketball fans were hard to spot downtown.

On Monument Circle, Charles Smith of Road Dogs hopes visitors will stop by his hot dog cart for lunch.

“I’m hoping it can bring a little boost to the city,” said Smith as he dealt up Italian sausage and sauerkraut from his wagon on the sidewalk outside of Hilbert Circle Theatre. “It’s been a little slow around here. We got things cleaned up, and it looks like the rest of the season should be good, but that’s only if we keep it up after the NCAA Tournament though.”

Across the Circle, Kwazar Martin put the final touches on a piece of street art he called “Elevation” showing a basketball player slamming through a dunk against a backdrop of the city’s skyline.

“I just wanted to do something that represents basketball and the culture of the city, which is why I incorporated the city in the background so people would remember where they were at when they took those pictures,” said Martin.

Perhaps the most visible piece of basketball-themed art is the giant bracket for 64 March Madness teams on the eastside windows of the JW Marriott, an NCAA Tier 1 hotel.

“When you have 68 teams descending on one city, that means that there are a lot of people who will be coming to town, so the hotels all downtown will be very busy,” said JW Marriott General Manager Phil Ray. “As soon as teams know, especially those on the bubble, that they’re coming, they’ll be starting to book their reservations.

“So, obviously Sunday’s a big day. People find out their brackets, they know they’re coming to Indianapolis, they just don’t know where they’re staying yet, and then we’ll start to get the fans rolling in right behind them.”

On the Circle, Smith the hot dog chef said that while he’s a Duke basketball fan, “I’m a fan of green, so, whoever.”

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