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MAC tournament could draw 20,000 fans to Cleveland, bringing millions to the city

Posted at 7:41 AM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-07 09:06:17-05

The Mid Atlantic Conference (MAC) Basketball Tournament taking place this week at Quicken Loans Arena is the slow cooker of economic generators. The tens of thousands of fans attending the 14 games at the Q won’t cause traffic jams or long waits at downtown bars or restaurants, but they will have an economic impact of around $15 million.

"You're bringing in a lot of people and then they start disappearing depending on how things play out more people will come into town as their teams continue to win," said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher of the ebb and flow of fans.

“The schools are running events throughout it, they’re all taking over taverns or sports bars or whatever and having gatherings there,” he said.

The MAC Basketball Tournament in its 19th year at the Q is the nation’s second-longest running basketball tournament at one venue in the nation behind the Big East Tournament held each year at Madison Square Garden.

While the eventual winners of the Men’s and Women’s MAC Championships make their way on to other locales for the NCAA’s March Madness the Q won’t be empty. The MAC is the host conference for the NCAA Men’s Division I Wrestling Championships which will take place in Cleveland March 15-17.

“It’s another week of mayhem how about that,” Steinbrecher said. “Huge economic impact, a whole bunch of people from all over the place and this is really one of the unique events the wrestling community is really tight-knit, so there's like 15,000 of these people that have been at every one of these forever."

Greater Cleveland Sports Commission President & CEO David Gilbert said the wrestling championships are among the most coveted of the NCAA gets.

"With NCAA people know about the Final Four in basketball, some people know the Frozen Four,” Gilbert said of the hockey championships. “NCAA Division I wrestling is even more impactful to the community than those. While it's not as high profile it will sellout Quicken Loans Arena for multiple days and we expect about 19,000 of the 20,000 thousand fans in the arena will be from outside of Cleveland.”

Tickets did sellout in no time because of the traditional following and because the two schools coming into the Championships ranked at the top of the sport are Penn State and Ohio State, schools that are an easy drive from the Q.

"What we're being told by the NCAA is this is the toughest ticket on the secondary market they've ever seen for the wrestling championships," Steinbrecher said.

“There will be tickets that come available on a day to day basis as we start reducing the number of mats that are on the floor we’re able to put in a few more seats every time and those will go on sale on a daily basis,” he said.

The MAC is contracted with Quicken Loans Arena through 2023, “I hope we’re going to be here much longer than that and expect we will,” Steinbrecher said.

Along with the Sports Commission the MAC is also eyeing future tournaments as the arena undergoes its transformation. “We’ve already secured the bid to host the NCAA Men’s Basketball first and second rounds in 2020. We’re a finalist for a women’s Final Four, we’ll find out later this fall if we’re able to land one of those.”

“We’re hosting the women’s bowling championship next year. We like hosting those, we like bringing people to our home.”