JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As eight teams prepare to tip off Thursday for round one of the March Madness tournament, local businesses are preparing for a big economic boost.
Thousands of fans are expected to flock to the River City, where the stage is set at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Businesses, including That Bar at the Arena, right next to the arena, know that means an influx in customers.
“We’re just going to do the best we can and try to keep up with it,” explained Warren Merrill, owner of That Bar at the Arena. “We have extra ice coolers in the back to try and keep up. We’re just planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”
This is the fourth time the city has been selected to host the NCAA tournament games.
Visit Jacksonville estimates the economic impact from fans, teams, and media spending money in the River City will be more than $10 million.
“We are extremely excited about the NCAA Tournament returning to Jacksonville for the fourth time,” said Michael Corrigan, president of Visit Jacksonville. “It’s a big weekend in Jacksonville and we welcome all the fans that are coming here.”
Local basketball fans like Craig Smith and Teo Sim told News4Jax they are eager to welcome other fans traveling to Jacksonville and get an opportunity to cheer for the teams in the tournament.
“That’s what is fun, to meet people and banter back and forth about your team,” Smith explained.
“I’m looking forward to the Kentucky game. That’s going to be a good one,” Sim said. “I think the Wofford and Seton Hall game will be a good one, too.”
First and second round games of the tournament will be played Thursday and Saturday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
All games Thursday:
- (7) Wofford (29-4) vs. (10) Seton Hall (20-13) , 9:40 p.m.
- (2) Kentucky (27-6) vs. (15) Abilene Christian (27-6), 7:10 p.m.
- (3) LSU (26-6) vs. (14) Yale (22-7), 12:40 p.m.
- (6) Maryland (22-10) vs. (11) Belmont/Temple, 3:10 p.m.
Game times Saturday are still TBA. For more information about the tournament schedule, click here.