Tournament set to boost economy

Shawntaye Hopkins

Thousands of basketball fans will descend on Bowling Green this weekend.

With the increase in visitors, Western officials are hoping to break even from the money they’ve invested in hosting the Sun Belt Conference tournament. And Bowling Green could rake in nearly $2 million because of the visitors, Athletic Director Wood Selig said.

Of the 11 schools in the Sun Belt Conference, Western’s bid of $800,000 to host the tournament for two years was the highest. Selig said it will also cost about $125,000 to run the tournament for a total cost of $525,000 this year.

“We give our two teams the home court advantage and a chance at winning the tournament and getting an NCAA bid, which you can’t put a price tag on,” Selig said.

Selig said Western will keep all profits, excluding marketing revenue from sponsors, which will go to the Sun Belt.

The tournament could serve as an economic engine for the community, Selig said.

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters agreed, saying that tournament attendees will make a difference.

“Sports fans spend larger amounts of money than just normal conventioneers,” Waters said.

Waters hopes a glimpse of Bowling Green will entice fans to come back and visit the city.

“It will be a nice little bump for the economy,” he said.

Twenty-two teams, 11 cheerleading squads and 11 bands will need a place to eat and sleep.

“We hope it’s going to fill up the hotel rooms,” Waters said, “And we know those people are going to eat at restaurants.”

Selig said just about every hotel in the city will be positively impacted.

Hampton Inn’s 131 rooms are booked with players, coaches, families of the teams and people from ESPN from March 5 through March 11, said sales manager Amy Cardwell.

“Being a corporate hotel during the week, we are usually full, but (the tournament) does help with the weekend business,” she said. “We are always looking forward to something that will benefit the city of Bowling Green.”

Greenwood Mall Marketing Director Renee Thornhill is hopeful the mall will also be positively impacted.

“We do hope to see an increase in traffic, (either) shopping or eating in the food court,” Thornhill said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]