SALT LAKE CITY — March Madness tips off in Utah Thursday morning as the NCAA Tournament is expected to bring thousands of college basketball fans to Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Salt Lake City is one of eight cities hosting the first two rounds of the men's tournament and many fans came early and brought their wallets with them.
“I just got in this morning from Hawaii,” said Earl Ching.
“I came in yesterday and it’s important because we are very supportive of our [New Mexico State] Aggie basketball team and we think this is going to be our year,” said Shari Jones, who made the trip from New Mexico.
Visit Salt Lake predicts the tournament will welcome more than 26,000 fans, including 6,650 people who booked 13,000 hotel room nights.
Out-of-state fans told FOX13 they expect to spend several thousand dollars in Utah.
“It just is exciting," said Helen Prouty of New Mexico. "It is exciting to see our team in it."
In all, tournament fans are expected to shell out $5.5 million in the Salt Lake Valley.
“It’s tremendous for the bars, restaurants, retail, it really has a huge impact in the immediate downtown area,” said Downtown Alliance Executive Director Dee Brewer.
Besides immediate spending, national exposure is expected to equate another multi-million dollar windfall fin promotional advertising for the city.