NCAA tourney has major economic impact for Houston

HOUSTON The NCAA regional championship, or the Sweet Sixteen, not only boosts our local economy this weekend, but it also builds Houston's resume as we go after more big name events down the road.

Employees at D'Massi's within eyeshot of Reliant Stadium are gearing up for college bastketball tourists to spill over into their Mediterranean restaurant this weekend.

"They come in here and eat," said Ana Abuteir, co-owner of D'Massi's.

Shoes are already squeaking on the floor of Reliant Stadium where as of yesterday more than 42,000 of the 70,000 seats have already been sold. Once tourists stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars, the NCAA regional championship tournament is expected to bring in just over $38 million into Houston. It's the free time between games where the economic boost occurs.

"The Museum District, fabulous restaurants, we have some many things to see and do. The music scene here is outstanding," said Greg Ortale with the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Bayou City is of course no stranger to national or international events. The Super Bowl in 2004, a major league baseball All-Star game, and an NBA All-Star game to name a few. As Houston's resume grows, it only showcases an ability to perform on a big stage which becomes a sales pitch to secure future events.

"Hey listen Houston has the capability of doing it. We have a proven track record for putting on successful events and that's what our goal is - to continue to bring these types of events to Houston," said David Tagliarino, Director of Sports Marketing for Reliant Park.

The hotel, restaurant and bar owners say bring it on, because as tip off draws near Abutier is preparing for overtime.

"We'll try to stay open late for the people that come out here. Usually they want us to open late for the games and stuff," she said.

It looks like our resume will only grow. Despite never hosting a college basketball Final Four, the city of Houston has been awarded two Final Four dates, the first being next year at Reliant Stadium. We are also on the short list for the soccer World Cup for either 2018 or 2022.

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