BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For the first time since 2008, the NCAA Tournament is returning to Birmingham.
The preparations have been underway for some time but were sent into overdrive when not only Alabama got tabbed for Birmingham but Auburn as well.
Longtime Birmingham restaurateur George Sarris and his downtown Fish Market are already busy making preparations for the expected rush of visitors and is excited for the tourne to be back.
”Excellent, it’s crazy good for Birmingham, for business for the state. It really it’s a shot in the arm for everybody, really. Put us on the map, look at how many people are going to be in Birmingham and I hope half of them come and eat at the fish market,” said Sarris.
Cornell Wesley is the director of Innovation and Economic Opportunity for the city of Birmingham and is expecting the tournament to generate millions in economic impact for the city.
“Milwaukee hosted previously and they are a similar size city. They had a 6.5 million impact. That was based on 5,000 hotel nights and about 18,000 visitors. In our case, we have a little bit of a wrinkle in that we have Alabama and Auburn and Houston. Two number-one seeds. This is the best-case scenario. My personal estimates will exceed 7 million,” Wesley said.
Fans from all over the nation will be converging on Birmingham.
For Tad Snider and his team at the BJCC, the perfect opportunity to show off the new and improved Legacy Arena.
“The investments in the building allowed us to work with the southeastern conference and all of our partners here in Birmingham to submit a bid. We were awarded this round way back then. It’s here now, it’s real,” Snider said.
It’s real, and real expensive. Ticket broker Vivid Seats shows tickets here in Birmingham are the hottest first-round tickets in the entire tournament and start at around $500.
Here is the schedule for Thursday at Legacy Arena:
Maryland vs. West Virginia — 11:15 a.m.
Alabama vs 16 Seed — 1:45 p.m.
Auburn vs Iowa — 5:50 p.m.
N. Kentucky vs. Houston — 8:20 p.m.