Tourney leaves behind trail of benefits

City booming from thousands of visitors
Tourney leaves behind trail of benefits
Updated: Apr. 1, 2019 at 5:35 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Basketball is helping the local economy score. Downtown Evansville hosted the NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament.

While there was only one champion on the court, many downtown businesses were big winners, too. The tournament drew tens of thousands of people to Evansville, booking multiple nights in our hotels, shopping in our stores, and eating in our restaurants.

Backstage Bar and Grill even saw record numbers in March, due in large part to the tournament hype.

It was all hands on deck, tournament weekend at Backstage Bar and Grill. Managers even brought in extra staff on big game nights.

Owner Kevin Zirkelbach says events like these build the bar’s reputation among locals and visitors.

“Even the out of towners that even come like they’ll come back next year they’ll hit us up and see how it’s going again,” says Zirkelbach.

Zirkelbach credits the Ford Center, Victory Theater, and Old National Bank Events Plaza for booking big acts that bring people through his door.

“We thrive off that obviously because we’re right by the Ford Center and the Victory, and we look forward to it because it helps our business," says Zirkelbach. "Even on the weekends we don’t have that stuff going on we’ve been doing really well.”

A boost with an added bonus: peace of mind.

“We don’t have to like really worry about like wow in March there’s nothing going on downtown so we have to like struggle to make stuff happen," says Zirkelbach. "For us it’s just a comfort for us knowing that we have people coming in downtown that we can entertain and cater to.”

Sure, profits feel prominent immediately following an event like that, but there are long-term benefits for the entire community.

“If we have visitors coming in and making those expenditures, and paying that food and beverage tax and that sales tax and that inn keepers tax, that’s only great for us as residents because the tax burden is shared then among non-residents,” says Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Joe Taylor.

Now Evansville is preparing for the next big event on the agenda: the Indiana Landmark’s Preservation Conference, which runs April 9-12. It is expected to draw about 200 visitors.

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