SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Finishing touches are happening at the SAP Center, as NCAA March Madness rolls into town. Tens of thousands of college basketball fans are making their way to San Jose this week. San Jose is one of four cities selected to host games at this regional level. The last time was back in 2007.
It’s the city’s sixth time hosting the tournament, the fourth time at the Sweet 16 level. Some 18,000 fans are expected to fill the tank Thursday night, as West Virginia takes on Gonzaga followed by Xavier and the University of Arizona. The winners play in the Elite 8 on Saturday. Both days are sold out.
“It’s a pretty exclusive and elite event,” said Jim Sparaco of the SAP Center. “It doesn't surprise me the tickets were snatched up pretty quickly. We've been sold out for a couple of months now.”
With signs up welcoming visitors, tens of millions of dollars are expected to be pumped into the economy. Teams and their fans are staying at hotels like the San Jose Marriot.
“We’ve just had a great run here in the last year and a half, everything from Super Bowl Opening Night to U.S. Figure Skating Championship to Gymnastics,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Those are the kind of events that bring people from around the world to San Jose.”
Since all NCAA events are “non-alcoholic,” downtown businesses hope that means it will be a slam dunk for profits. New to the block, Rookies on South First Street is doubling up on staff and inventory, ordering beer popular in other states.
“I’m assuming everyone is going to pre drink and post drink,” said Rookies General Manager Ricky Hobson. “If their team wins they will celebrate and drink. If their team loses, they will celebrate and drink.”
“I feel confident,” said Shane Rooney of Seattle. “I will see how it goes. If they win, that's awesome"
This Gonzaga alum is on a work trip visiting from Seattle. He said he may now extend his trip to watch his team play.
Alberto Carrasco, a San Jose college student, scored a ticket for Thursday for $120.
“This is a once in a lifetime and for it to be in San Jose, the SAP Center,” said Carrasco. “College basketball while we are college students. You can't miss the opportunity.”
Fans who weren't able to get tickets can still be a part of March Madness. They can watch the teams practice on Wednesday starting at Noon. Admission and parking are free. Whoever wins the games in San Jose advance to the Final Four in Phoenix.