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March mega-madness
Hoops tourneys a shot in arm for local businesses

March 10, 2004

By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News

Three big tournaments, two big weeks for tourism, one big dose of March Madness.

Thousands of fans from around Colorado and nearby states will pack Denver for the women's and men's Mountain West Conference basketball tournaments, which start today and Thursday, respectively.

Add to that the first two regional rounds of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament next week, and it's a great time to be a Denver business catering to the college basketball crowd.

"It's just going to be crazy," said Chris Walker, general manager of Brooklyn's bar, located next to the Pepsi Center, where the events will be held. "There will be 16,000 to 17,000 people next door, many of them tourists. You let them out, and where are they going to go? We're anticipating being busy the whole time."

Area hotels, restaurants and other business expect to receive a financial boost during a typically slow period for Denver tourism.

The tournaments include afternoon breaks, during which thousands of out-of-towners will walk or hop a bus to downtown Denver.

And many fans will hit the bars after the games.

Businesses say they are ready for the onslaught of basketball fans with drink specials, extra workers and extended hours.

"We certainly anticipate a nice uptick in our business," said Brian Hanover, regional manager of ESPN Zone, which has a location on the 16th Street Mall.

The restaurant/sports entertainment mecca plans to stay open two extra hours tonight and Thursday night to accommodate crowds.

The combination of college basketball events in Denver this time of year is rare.

The Mountain West Conference typically holds its championship tournament in Las Vegas but moved it here this year because Denver is a more neutral site for the teams involved.

NCAA tournament rounds jump to different cities each year. So landing both in the same month is a coup for Denver, tourism leaders said. And it's not just bars, restaurants and hotels that will benefit.

Two Colorado companies that specialize in photos and footage from college sports games also see a boost this time of year.

Rich Clarkson & Associates shoots photos of NCAA tournaments, among other sporting events, and then sells them to newspapers, magazines and other publications; Denver- based Thought Equity provides a database of video clips of NCAA games, along with other types of footage, for use in commercials, films, TV shows and other uses.

Aside from the direct financial benefit, the events could bring dividends to Denver down the road.

They'll help Denver, recently named the top sports city in the country by Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal , attract more big sporting events.

And visitors who like what they see of Denver might come back.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase Denver and the state of Colorado," said Rob Perl- man, president of Colorado Ski Country USA and a member of the state's tourism board.

"We should take every opportunity to promote ourselves, to put our best foot forward."

Rocky Mountian News Online Article or 303-892-2744


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