Downtown Indianapolis businesses will lose out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue over the coming weeks, following decisions by the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA to ban in-arena spectators at their post-season tournaments, according to a report by the Indianapolis Business Journal.
The NCAA event was expected to draw some 42,000 people to the city. Another 18,000 fans were expected to attend the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this week. That tournament started Wednesday, with fans at the first two two games, but it will continue without crowds through Sunday's championship game. The groups separately decided Wednesday they would close the events to the public as the outbreak of COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, worsens throughout the United States. The decisions were made to protect the health of student-athletes and the general public.
The NCAA Midwest Regional games scheduled for March 26 and 28 at Lucas Oil Stadium were expected to generate about $20 million in revenue for local businesses, including hotels and restaurants, according to Visit Indy. The Big Ten men’s and women’s tournaments were expected to generate a combined $15 million.
Jim Dora Jr., president of Indianapolis-based General Hotels Corp., which manages multiple local hotels including the Crowne Plaza at Union Station, said the loss of business in the coming weeks will be a blow to his and other hotels. “I’m very concerned,” Dora told IBJ. “I don’t know how, as a city, we dig ourselves out of that hole.”
Dora added that he hasn’t yet seen figures for how many guests will cancel or alter their reservations because of the Big Ten and NCAA decisions, but he said it’s sure to be in the thousands.
“I would imagine this is going to be bad for business,” said Scott Bennett, manager at Loughmiller’s Pub & Eatery, located blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium. “We were planning on a bunch of people coming to town,” Bennett said. “And I imagine they’re not going to be coming now.”
In addition, Plainfield-based Capitol Sports Center has canceled its Nike Mid-East Qualifier, a volleyball tournament that was expected to draw 38,000 people—including young athletes and their families— to the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Incrediplex sports center northeast of Lawerence from March 20-22, IBJ reported.