Mar 31, 2023 - Sports

The economic impact of hosting the Final Four

Illustration of a basketball with the seam shaped like a dollar symbol

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Final Four festivities are a win for the city, organizers say.

What's happening: The Final Four is estimated to bring approximately $200 million to Houston, according to Janis Burke, the CEO of the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority.

  • Plus: Large events like the Final Four have a ripple effect outside of the spending generated; it's an opportunity to showcase the city.

Flashback: The last time Houston hosted the Final Four in 2016, the event reportedly generated a $250 million impact, according to the city of Houston.

  • Last year, New Orleans reportedly saw an economic injection of about $170 million, per Forbes.

Driving the spending: March Madness draws tens of thousands of loyal fans who will travel and spend money on airfare, hotels, food, merchandise and transportation, says Michael Heckman, CEO of Houston First, the city's tourism agency.

Yes, but: Taxpayers are subsidizing the cost of hosting the Final Four. Officials are tapping $19 million from the state Events Trust Fund, run by Gov. Greg Abbott's office, to offset expenses such as team transportation, venue rentals, public safety, volunteer uniforms, signage and Fan Fest concert staging, Burke said.

The intrigue: When Houston won the bid for the Final Four in 2018, the Sports Authority did not anticipate the Final Four landing on the heels of baseball's Opening Day and the same weekend as the HBCU All-Star game and two Rocket games.

  • Plus, the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship in River Oaks will start on Monday.

The big picture: This weekend will be a test of how Houston handles large crowds for when the city is vying for other bids.

  • "We believe our downtown will be busier than it's ever been, aside from the World Series parade. But we're excited about that. We don't want to discourage people from coming. We just want them to plan ahead," Burke said.

What they're saying: "The Final Four is great for Houston. Houston will be put on the national and even international map because people from all over the world will be tuning in and watching," Burke says.

  • "It's a great opportunity for us to just shine. I think if Houstonians just be themselves — we know how to do big events, we show up. We are great fans. And I think if we do everything that we normally do, we're just going to be a winner."

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