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NCAA tournament's road to Indiana goes back to 2014

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 16:19:18-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The announcement that all of the NCAA tournament games would be played in Indiana did not come until earlier this year, but it all started six years ago with a bid to host the 2021 Final Four.

Anticipations of a strong March brings hope for an even stronger future for Hoosiers. The Circle City has gone from silent streets to a bustling downtown atmosphere with the excitement of March Madness.

Indianapolis is no stranger to hosting big events with a resume that includes a Super Bowl and seven Final Fours.

"We have hosted more than 450 international and national events, including this will be our eighth Final Four," Brett Kramer, Indiana Sports Corp. director of public relations, said. "We have a community that is ready to take on this big challenge."

Kramer is part of the team that organized the plan for Indiana as the host city for the entire 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament. She said Indiana was and is ready for the challenge.

"We are built for this," Kramer said. "The proximity of our venues to our hotels to our convention centers to our wonderful volunteers. We try to have a tribe of Hoosiers that what they want to do is make Indy shine and the best thing that we can do is through these events."

The tournament's road to Indiana began back in November 2014, when Indianapolis landed the bid for the 2021 Final Four. By September 2019, the planning began. Then, in March 2020, the NCAA canceled its annual tournament for the first time.

Keeping an eye on an uncertain future, Indianapolis began to pivot to keep teams and fans safe in 2021.

Then in November of last year, host officials learned Indiana had the opportunity to host the entire tournament, not just the Final Four. Organizers worked with hotels and venues to ramp up their plans.

"Really taking this initial bid, re-working it a little bit to make it work for 67 games instead of three games," Kramer said. "But really that just comes from a community collaboration why it's coming."

The unprecedented setup is made possible by strong partnerships between organizations and venues across the state.

A year after leagues canceled games and venues shut their doors, Hoosiers are back at work.

"The tourism world is one of the hardest-hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are most excited to get people back downtown but also to get the city back working," Nate Swick, Visit Indy's communication manager, said. "It's amazing that this will fuel so many more jobs and bring employees back to the hotels, to the restaurants and to the venues."

Hoosier hospitality is what makes tourism in Indiana. Swick hopes the tournament will fill local restaurants, hotels and bars with visitors and money.

"We are certain it will have a massive economic impact on the city, it is going to be a nine-figure economic impact," Swick said.

The March Madness event as a whole can also set a precedent of what Indy can do when it comes to more highly-anticipated events during and one day, post-pandemic.

"This shows how Indy can continue to host events during a pandemic, and the pandemic is not over and we know that," Swick said. "It is making sure that we can do this safely and how can we do that again after this for the Indy 500. Where will we be with the Indy 500? I think we will take a lot of what we learned through this process and use it for future events as well."