SALT LAKE CITY — When the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off this week, Salt Lake City will be in the spotlight as one of eight cities to host the first and second rounds of March Madness.
So will the University of Utah, which, though not playing, will host the event.
Information from Visit Salt Lake indicates the tournament will welcome more than 26,000 attendees, including 6,650 people booking an estimated 13,000 hotel room nights and visitors spending in excess of $5.5 million in the Salt Lake community.
In addition to the direct attendee spending, Visit Salt Lake estimates the media publicity of hosting the first two rounds equates to another multimillion-dollar windfall for the community in promotional advertising value, said Shawn Stinson, communications director for Visit Salt Lake.
"The national and international exposure shows the 'beauty shots' that are going to be carried far and wide on TV," he said.
Even though most shots will be inside Vivint Smart Home Arena, there will be ample cutaway shots depicting the picturesque landscapes that are the hallmark of the Wasatch Front, he added.
"It's a nice economic boon for any city to host the (tournament) and we're fortunate (to have it)," he said. "Obviously hotels are going to benefit, restaurants are going to benefit and nightlife (establishments) are going to do great."
He also noted that some visitors may also choose to experience some cultural attractions, such as museums, arts venues, Temple Square and possibly some of the ski resorts for those willing to venture out between rounds.
"It's going to be an exciting weekend like it usually is," Stinson said. "Getting people visiting and talking on our behalf once they go home (is beneficial). (Salt Lake City) speaks for itself once people are here."
While the games will be played at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the events will be run and staged in conjunction with the University of Utah, explained Mike Lageschulte, special events coordinator with the U Athletics Department.
After being selected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to host this year, the university arranged with the Larry H. Miller Group to manage the event at the arena using normal Vivint staff to perform their typical duties, with U. staff acting as administrator for all game- and team-related media activities, he added.3 comments on this story
Lageschulte said another local touch on the tournament comes from Utah company Connor Sport Court, which made the floor for this year's March Madness games in the Vivint arena, which were laid over the weekend and into Monday, as well as in other states. The company has also been a part of previous tournaments.
"It's kind of neat to have a local company involved in the manufacturing and design, and it has given the tournament a really sharp look."
Meanwhile, Utah State University's Aggies are entering the tournament with a No. 8 seed. They will take on the Washington Huskies on Friday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Contributing: Jed Boal