PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Fans settled into their seats at CONSOL Energy Center Wednesday, a full day before the first college basketball tournament game.
Hosted by the Duquesne Dukes, it’s first class all the way. A special floor has been brought in by the NCAA, and fans were gearing up for the first of eight practice sessions.
Sports reporter Rich Nye of Indianapolis has been to Pittsburgh before.
“We’ve been here for football games,” he says. “But I’ve always enjoyed Pittsburgh. Seems like it’s always a little cold when we come here. Today, though, is a nice, sunshiny day. We’ll take that.”
All those fans, players and out-of-town media have to stay and eat somewhere. VisitPittsburgh Executive Vice President Jason Fulvi expects 18,000 visitors.
“We estimate it conservatively at about seven million, a little over $7 million, for about a three-day stay. You know, that’s not a bad return on investment,” he said.
That’s good news for local hotels. Pittsburgh Marriott bell captain Brad Shaffer says mornings are usually one-way traffic: people checking out. Not this time.
“You actually had a little bit more overflow,” he says. “You had people leaving the hotel, but you also had people hanging out in the lobby, reading newspapers, watching TV, checking the newspapers. And you can tell everybody is here for the basketball, as well. You see the different colors. So it’s really been a little bit more busy, but good business. Positive business.”
Players and staff from LSU plan to do a little sightseeing.
“For our kids to be able to come to this area and this city and to be able to see something different, is all a part of being in the NCAA tournament,” Associate Athletic Director Eddie Nunez says.
With tournament teams chosen at the last minute, it’s almost impossible for Strip District vendors to come up with specialized tee-shirts and caps. But the tourist trade has always been good for Pittsburgh standbys like Primanti Brothers.
“These teams bring a lot of people with them,” says employee Norm Teklinski. “So we’re excited about that, and we’re looking forward to that. And we’re ready for them.”
The only guaranteed winner is the city itself.