NCAA tournament to have a big economic impact on Indianapolis

March Madness
Posted at 11:17 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 16:11:47-04

INDIANAPOLIS — While the NCAA Tournament is bringing a lot of out-of-town fans, it’s also employing local event workers, who were out of jobs all last year.

With one of the largest sporting events of the year taking place right here in Indianapolis, stagehands from across the city and state are happy to be employed once again.

“Once we heard the announcement, we were like, 'Oh my gosh here we go, something,'” Aaron Winegard, president of International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 30, said.

Last year when the country shut down, “we were rocking and rolling just like always, on pace to set another record year for us as an organization,” Winegard said. “Then the phone calls started coming in, things started canceling. It was a complete shutdown.”

The Local 30 union went from employing on average 200 people a day to none.

“So it was really devastating for us,” Winegard said.

But now with the entire NCAA tournament being hosted here in Indy, local stagehands were hired to set up video screens, man cameras, run cables, scoreboards and hang graphics, to name a few jobs.

“I would guess that a lot of the increases in jobs are going to be on the more temporary side,” said Kyle Anderson, IU Kelley school of business economist.

“A lot of people are worried that it’s going to be a false restart,” Winegard said. “We’ll have a month or a few weeks and then it will be dead again. So everybody’s a little apprehensive but excited to have something.”

Anderson estimates up to $200 million will be brought to the city by out-of-town fans in terms of hotel stays, dining at bars and restaurants. While limited capacity might hinder the full potential for hosting such a tournament, he’s hopeful these industries will continue to flourish past March Madness.

“We might see Indianapolis getting more not only just for sporting events but other sorts of conventions and conferences and things that are really beneficial when those things pick back up,” Anderson said.

The stagehand union says summer concerts and events are being scheduled right now that could help their industry take off. But it all depends on keeping infection rates low and people doing their part so the economy can stay open.