In Milwaukee, college basketball fans have triple the reasons to watch this weekend's start of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Two Wisconsin teams are in the running – the Badgers and Marquette - plus Milwaukee is hosting an opening round, at the Bradley Center.
Eight teams and their fans have been piling into downtown for Thursday's opening round of March Madness. Only two will be victorious in the end - and move on to the Sweet Sixteen. By that time, Kristin Settle, spokeswoman for Visit Milwaukee, expects them and their fans to spend $6M in town – about $1.5M more than when Milwaukee last hosted, in 2014.
“Well we certainly anticipate a much larger economic impact this time around. Because there are so many drive in teams this year of the eight teams that are coming to Milwaukee,” Settle says.
The ‘drive teams’ include from Indiana and Minnesota.
“We did have some people from Minnesota, the University of Minnesota in last night, so maybe those guys will try to make a home here,” says Marty Petricca.
Petricca is manager of Major Goolsby’s - a long-time sports bar, just a few hops from the Bradley Center. He says staff has been making sure all the TVs work, while also stocking up on food and beverages.
“We’re basing most of everything off of three years ago when they were in town. The Badgers were here last time. They’re not here this year, but we’re still expecting to be non-stop, full for three or four days," Petricca says.
Non-stop, because St. Patrick’s Day will add crowds on Friday, between the rounds of basketball on Thursday and Saturday.
Petricca is an alum of Marquette University, which is hosting the Milwaukee round. Its men’s team has been sent to a different region, so he has another favorite he hopes wins here.
“I’d like to see Butler do well. They’re in the Big East, same as Marquette, so that would be kind of cool,” Petricca says.
What would also be kind of cool, according to VISIT Milwaukee’s Kristin Settle, is if all the fans who come here have a pleasant time.
“The more people that come and experience the city the better because they go home and they tell people how cool Milwaukee is and then their friends and family want to visit as well. So it’s really, really exciting to be able to have that opportunity to showcase Milwaukee on one of the most fun weekends in this city,” Settle says.
Win or lose.