Spokane Community reaps benefits of hosting NCAA Tournament

Spokane Sports helped Athletic Director Tim Mooney of the University of Idaho and his colleagues at the University of Idaho to host the NCAA Tournament.

March Madness has always been a fun-filled time for the Spokane community. Whether it is supporting Gonzaga basketball or local Washington universities, there are major March Madness fans in Spokane.

However, Spokane has been a hot topic for March Madness as the city was selected in 2020 to host the first and second rounds for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in 2024 and the regional tournament for the women’s tournament in 2025.

GU, Eastern Washington and Washington State fans should be excited because their teams are eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament games in Spokane as the University of Idaho is set to be the host school.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the NCAA Tournament in 2020, Spokane was supposed to host the First and Second rounds for the men’s tournament. According to Visit Spokane, Spokane’s economy lost around $20 million due to the tournament being canceled as fans from all over the nation were left disappointed with only ticket refunds to show for it.

However, Spokane was the recent host for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Regionals in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The event featured the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight with teams such as the Texas Longhorns, Ohio State Buckeyes, Stanford Cardinal and Maryland Terrapins who all fought for a spot to play in the Final Four in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Stanford women’s team featuring hometown Spokane stars Lexie and Lacie Hull were the winners of the tournament as they got to play in front of a home crowd. 

Spokane Sports, a nonprofit organization, helped Athletic Director Tim Mooney of the University of Idaho and his colleagues at the University of Idaho to host the event.

Spokane Sports is charged with bringing major sporting events every calendar year and hosts between 50-70 championship events across all sports. The major focus is making a positive economic impact on the region and putting Spokane on the map for sports tourism.

The VP of Spokane Sports, Ashley Blake, discussed her thoughts on hosting the NCAA Women’s tournament in Spokane.

“To host events of this caliber that brings national media coverage is incredible,” Blake said. “This certainly helps us achieve our goals of generating sports tourism for our city and putting Spokane on the map as a first-rate sports destination. We’re so fortunate to be in a community that truly backs our vision and helps us move the city forward.”

Based off information that Blake shared on the impact of the tournament from this past March, she shared how there was an economic impact of $4,402,125. This is based off 150 athletes competing, 35 visiting officials/VIPs, and 1,750 spectators that all were in Spokane during the weekend of March 25. The all-session tickets were sold for $50, while youth and senior tickets were $30. 

What this information means to Spokane is that sports serve as a major part of the economy. Hosting events like the NCAA Tournament for both men and women helps increase the income of the city by helping local businesses, restaurants, hotels and more.

Not to mention the attention that the city receives from news, sport networks and other media raises Spokane as another potential location to host more major events, which is also contributed to by the success of local teams.

There also comes the excitement for fans to be able to support their local teams. For example, if GU men’s basketball games are all sold-out in the McCarthey Athletic Center that holds 6,000 people, imagine the GU Bulldogs playing in March Madness in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena that can hold over 12,000 rabid spectators. 

With the upcoming 2024 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, you can expect at least three games to be played in Spokane. That would be a whole three days of March Madness with a sold-out Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena for three separate occasions so college basketball fans, Spokane locals and out-of-state guests can come support their teams and the Spokane community.

You would also expect ticket sales, merchandise sales, advertisements and other expenses around the city to increase during this time, which could translate an economic impact greater than or equal to the $20 million that was expected to be earned from the 2020 men’s basketball tournament.

Based off this information and the numerous selections for March Madness and other sporting events, we know that Spokane is proving to be the center of sports tourism throughout the nation. Spokane is no longer a random city, rather proving itself to be put on the map and show that the city has all the major resources to host these sporting events and gain national recognition due to the city’s success and economic impact that these events bring for the Spokane community.

Spokane sports have proven to be the heart of the community from the Spokane and Washington residents attending all events to it being one of many sources of income to positively affect the local economy.

We hope that Spokane can be the host to more major events in the future, so we can see economic growth of the city and possibly support all our Washington teams in competition.

Dominic Pe Benito is a staff writer.

Diversity Editor

Dominic Pe Benito is a junior from Gilroy, CA. He was a staff writer last spring before becoming a diversity editor for this fall. He is also the editor-in-chief of Our Voices and president of FASU.