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March Madness begins this weekend, and it will be at an even higher level when regional semi-finals and finals come to the Edward Jones Dome the weekend following.  Many local fans were hoping the Missouri Tigers would be part of the Midwest regional being played here.  They were disappointed wen it didn’t happen.  But some in our area were cheering when Mizzou was sent out west.

“Absolutely, It’s really good news,” Brian Hall of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau said.   “As much as we would love to have our home team playing at the dome, the fact is that all their fans would not require hotel accommodations.”

And that’s the rub for area businesses.  More money will be spent by out of towners than by locals going to the games.

If the seeding holds true, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown, and Michigan with bring their teams and fans to St. Louis.  Of that group, only Georgetown carries a small fan base.  The other three have enormous followings and alumni bases.

It’s expected that those fans will fill 7000 hotel rooms the weekend of the regional, creating about $8 million worth of economic impact.  If Mizzou were one of the teams coming in, that number would be significantly smaller.

At the St. Louis Sports commission they say they’re not as hung up on who is coming to town.

“There’s no such thing as a bad story for a regional,” commission president Frank Viverito said.

He’s more focused on legislation in Jefferson City that could impact future NCAA visits here.

The commission is asking lawmakers for tax breaks that would take a portion of new revenue generated by an event like a basketball regional, and send that money back here to use to draw future events.  The need for the cash comes as more and more cities are providing up-front money to entice the NCAA to stage events like regionals, the  Final Four, and other championships.

If the bill doesn’t pass, this could be among the last of the NCAA events to come to Missouri.

“I think to a degree we are risking the events,” Viverito said, “because our competitors are coming to the table with the tools and the incentives that demonstrate the public sector’s support for these events and we really need that.”

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