Indianapolis is still projecting a $100 million economic boost from March Madness despite Marion County health officials refraining from a decision on whether fans will be allowed at the tournament.
Indiana Sport Corp. president Ryan Vaughn told the Indianapolis Star that the tournament represents a “tremendous opportunity” for the city’s struggling economy "especially as we continue to kind of endure cancellations from tourism like most other cities across the country."
Officials estimate roughly 2,500 hotel rooms are needs to house the 68 teams that will make the tournament, as well as media and staff. However, the pandemic and uncertain health guidelines make actual attendance a hard thing to figure.The Marion County Health Department on Wednesday said that at this point no more than 420 family members will be allowed to attend each game of the tournament and that no “final decision” has been made on whether additional spectators will be allowed into games.
"The exact number won't be calculated until the nets have been cut down and a champion is crowned, because we won't know exactly how many visitors come in and out of the city and how spending is categorized," said Chris Gahl of Visit Indy, the city's tourism arm. "But we feel very confident in a very conservative pre-game estimate that a healthy nine figures in economic impact will be felt from hosting March Madness in its entirety."
Taxes generated from sporting events go to the county’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.
According to the Star, monthly revenues dropped consistently in 2020 when compared to 2019 beginning in April, with tax revenues fueling the CIB dropping by $3.9 million or 38 percent. They stayed low throughout the year, dropping by nearly 55 percent in June and 53 percent in September.
Sinking revenues forced the Capital Improvement Board to slash its budget by roughly 26 percent for 2021.
"We look forward to welcoming the student-athletes, coaches, and families and, if possible, fans to ICCLOS where we can ensure a safe and healthy environment to enjoy basketball," said Andy Mallon, executive director of the board who declined to speculate on the economic impact of the tournament. "This will be a March to remember.”