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NCAA Wrestling Championship in Cleveland brings economic impact, new visitors to the city

Posted at 8:01 AM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 11:43:43-04

If you're walking down East 4th Street this week behind someone wearing a pullover reading "Gopher Wrestler," you should probably know that they're not sharing with you their preferred weekend past time but are instead showing their support for the University of Minnesota wrestling program.

Minnesota is one of the 73 schools represented in Cleveland for the Men's Division I NCAA Wrestling Championships that get underway Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena. That fans would travel from Minnesota for this is not a surprise to those who brought the championships to Cleveland.

"Not only does this have a huge following," said David Gilbert, President & CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission "but about 19,000 of [the 20,000] seats are from out of town."

"Outside of the men's Final Four and one of the major college football games, it's probably the most meaningful event from a NCAA perspective that a community can host," he said.

That's true not only from the economic impact but from the point of view that many of those here are visiting Cleveland for the very first time and research has shown those are the people that often leave with a different perception of the city and go off as ambassadors.

A quick check late Wednesday of downtown hotel rooms showed the few remaining were going for asking prices of upwards of $300 a night.

"I'd say we've been doing this for 18 years at sports commission," said Gilbert. "We have never had an event with such high demand in terms of hotels and tickets, it's great."

Adding to the draw is the fact that the number one and two teams in the nation going into the Championships are Penn State and Ohio State both within an easy drive of Cleveland. That's something Ohio State Wrestler Kyle Snyder said he'll use to his advantage.

"I feel like this is going to be a predominantly Buckeye favored crowd which is going to help us," he said. And keeping with the wrestling flare he added "I think that these two teams, Ohio State and Penn State - this is the greatest team race that there ever has been in the history of the NCAA. I truly believe that."

Gilbert and sports Commission's goal is to send not only the visitors home with a smile but also the NCAA because this is an event they'd like to see come back.

"It's about us hosting it in a way that they walk away saying they need to come back to Cleveland."

"For every year that they bid it out there are 20 or more cities that want that year so we really have to make ourselves stand out," he said.

What they will see for sure is a very vibrant downtown especially on the third and final day of the Championships on Saturday the 17th, which is St. Patrick's Day!

"I don't know if you could have scripted it better or worse that the finals of NCAA wrestling championships are the same day as Cleveland St. Patrick's Day," said Gilbert with a laugh. "It is going to be one unbelievable day downtown that's for sure."