What Will Hosting March Madness Games Mean for Detroit?

The NCCA tournament means a lot of visitors to the region, and a lot of hype and excitement.

Jake Neher/WDET

It’s mid-March, and that means cold weather, potholes, spring break and the best time of the year for many sports fans.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, March Madness, kicks off Thursday. 

This year, there are a few reasons for people in southeast Michigan to get excited. Both Michigan and Michigan State appear in the tournament. And this year, the first rounds of the Midwest division of the tournament will be played here in Detroit, at Little Caesars Arena.

That means a lot of visitors to the region, and a lot of hype and excitement.

But how much economic activity do these events really generate? And is it worth the wear and tear of housing tens of thousands of excited — and sometimes rowdy — fans?

Bill Shea, enterprise editor covering the business of sports for Crain’s Detroit Business, joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about those questions.

He notes that the Detroit Sports Commission says they will be about $6.5 million in economic impact for this set of games at Little Caesars Arena.

“You can count me among the skeptics of economic impact numbers,” says Shea. “Like any sort of accounting, there are plenty of tricks and things to make anything, you know, they can make Star Wars look like it never turned a profit.”

But he says there’s a sense of civic pride that comes with these kinds of events.

“Having events like this, I think Detroiters expect to see Super Bowls and All Star Games,” he continues. “We don’t get them all the time, but we should be in the conversation.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.