SAN ANTONIO – Get ready for March Madness live and direct in San Antonio in a way like never before. On Friday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg, along with NCAA representatives, announced that the entire NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Tournament would be hosted in San Antonio.
“For the first time in tournament history, San Antonio and our surrounding communities will be the site for the 64-team NCAA women’s basketball championship,” Nirenberg said during a virtual news conference.
Business owners and consumers expressed high hopes for positive economic results.
“I’m really excited about it. Like, our city needs a breath of fresh air,” said Duane Cummings, a San Antonio resident.
The upcoming tournament will feature 63 televised games, and downtown business owners are thrilled by the anticipated economic impact.
“It’s just a little glimpse, a little God wink about us getting our lives back to normal, fellowshipping with each other, being with each other,” said Larry Rosenberger, who owns Kilwins downtown, a pastry and ice cream novelty shop.
The fellowshipping part, though, will be drastically different this year. As of right now, only players’ families will be allowed at the games. Officials said the decision on whether fans will be allowed might not be reached until right before the tournament starts.
“Our number one priority is to provide a safe environment,” said Nina King, chairperson of the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Committee.
Amid the looming concerns of spreading COVID-19, players must have seven consecutive negative tests before coming to town, and they’ll travel by private charter. They’ll have routine tests once they arrive, and the players are required to stay in small designated groups.
Even without thousand of extra fans, the increased NCAA traffic is well received.
“Our staff are super excited. They can make some money. The River Walk has really been hit. It is very quiet down here,” said Gina Hartbarger, manager of County Line BBQ.
“I think it’s the best news we’ve heard in a year since COVID (pandemic) started,” Rosenberger said.
On Monday, March 14, the 64 teams participating in the tournament will be announced. The tournament runs from March through April, with the national championship on April 4.
During the tournament, Nirenberg announced that he anticipates more than 35,000 room nights to downtown San Antonio. Some impacted by the pandemic say it’s a big score for a lagging hospitality industry.