Final Four could be financial boon to local cab drivers

March 16, 2011 4:15:55 PM PDT
We are about two weeks away from the official start of the NCAA Final Four right here in Houston. The city is expecting crowds in the thousands to come to town for the games, but there are also hopes they'll experience a little of what our city has to offer while they're here.

Organizers say the goal of Wednesday's special rally is to make sure the taxi drivers can be where the fans are at all times.

The Final Four isn't just exciting for basketball fans, it is also a big deal for Houston cab drivers who are happy to have the extra dollars all the visitors will bring.

"They say it's gonna be better than the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl was pretty good," said Nick Reyes.

"It's gonna help us out because there's going to be a big volume of people and they are going to need cabs to the restaurants and to the airport and it will bring a lot of business into the city," said cab driver Chuck Ejimofor.

The timing of the tournament is perfect for drivers who've been struggling to keep up with the cost of fuel. James Banks says he expects to make an extra thousand dollars.

"The conventions, international or the whole state like this, makes a big difference," Banks said.

Between 50,000 and 70,000 fans are expected to descend on Houston, and that's why the NCAA and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau is giving drivers a schedule of events along with some goodies to sweeten the deal.

"It's gonna be great for Houston. We expect a lot of good things if we give them information and tools they need," said Jean Stewart, project coordinator of the Houston organizing committee.

Fans could spend as much as $100 million over the three-day tournament and drivers say knowing where and when the fans are going to be waiting for a cab will help them get a share of that money.

Organizers are handing out lunch to drivers today, and tomorrow they will head to Bush Intercontinental Airport with cookies for the drivers there.

This year's Final Four is expected to be the largest ever. The games are set for Saturday, April 2 and Monday, April 4. If you miss it this year, you'll get another chance as the NCAA has also awarded the 2016 tournament to Houston.