Apr. 3—Indiana will go down in history as the first state to play host to an NCAA men's basketball tournament from beginning to end. From all indications, the event has been a huge success.
Why shouldn't it be? This state knows basketball. Indiana invented March Madness.
OK, few of us likely predicted an 11 seed would make the Final Four, but who can fault us for that?
The organizers of this year's event have not skimped on the details. Take that 47,000-square-foot bracket adorning the side of the JW Marriott Hotel.
"Indiana: Where Champions Are Crowned," reads the text across the top, and the message is clear: If you want a city that knows how to stage a first-class sporting event, Indianapolis is the obvious choice.
Putting together the world's largest bracket wasn't a simple task. Installers had to assemble it from 800 individual pieces, each of them about 4 feet wide and 2-3 feet tall. That task alone took more than 4 hours.
As the tournament progresses, workers have been adding the winners' names on the morning after each set of games, but they'll do that one better for the championship game on Monday night. As members of the winning team depart Lucas Oil Stadium after cutting down the nets, the bracket will be complete, with the name of the winning school already in place.
Pulling off an event like this is a big deal.
Tourism officials estimate the financial impact to the Indianapolis economy will be at least $100 million.
"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," Chris Gahl of Visit Indy told The Indianapolis Star.
"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."
Even with significantly reduced crowds, the impact has been enormous. Just housing tournament participants and the media for that first weekend required roughly 2,500 hotel rooms.
The NCAA awarded this event to Indianapolis at least in part because of the health and safety procedures tournament organizers had put into place.
Things got off to a rocky start. First, six officials were sent home after one of them tested positive for COVID-19. Then Virginia Commonwealth was forced to forfeit its opening game after multiple players had positive tests.
But the NCAA's bubble ultimately worked, and the rest of the tournament went off almost without a hitch. In spite of all the challenges, a new college basketball champion will be crowned Monday night.
Those in Indianapolis who helped to make it happen should take a bow.