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NCAA's March Madness men's basketball tournament returning to Denver this weekend

Ball Arena in downtown Denver is hosting First and Second Round games of the NCAA's March Madness men's basketball tournament this weekend in the Mile High City.
Michael Lyle, Jr.
The UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team practices before Friday’s game against Baylor on Thursday, March 16 at Ball Arena in downtown Denver. The city is hosting First and Second Round games of the NCAA's March Madness men's basketball tournament this weekend.

March Madness is one of the premiere sporting events in the country and this year, Denver will be in the middle of it all. Ball Arena will host First- and Second-Round games in the men’s NCAA Tournament Friday, March 17 and Sunday, March 19.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he’s as big a basketball fan as anyone in the Mile High City. And like much of America, he cannot wait for “The Madness” to begin.

“Whenever you get a chance to be a part of March Madness, it's a great tribute, I think, to the city,” said Hancock.

This is the sixth time Denver has hosted the NCAA’s signature showcase for men’s college basketball. Denver was also a host for the Women’s Final Four back in 2012.

Hancock said the city and surrounding communities are sure to benefit financially as thousands of fans make their way to the metropolitan area to cheer on their teams this week.

“Fans travel well in the NCAA, and that's exciting,” said Hancock. “We thoroughly expect, obviously, people will be in our hotels. They'll be eating in our restaurants. They'll be partaking in our libation, and maybe some other product. They'll be buying retail here in Denver and shopping. That's always a good thing.”

Another big sports fan ready for “March Madness” to arrive this week is State Senator Kyle Mullica.

“We have individuals visiting our city,” he said. “There's an economic benefit to that. I think it's really a “win-win” with March Madness coming here and fans being able to support these student athletes and enjoy some good basketball.”

For the NCAA, March Madness means big bucks.

The financial media website, Investopedia, reports that the NCAA brings in about a billion dollars each year in revenue from broadcast rights fees, tickets sales, corporate sales and television advertisements.

The Denver metro region is hoping it can access some of that revenue. Businesses ranging from restaurants to lodging are gearing up for what’s expected to be a busy week.

“Our guest rooms will be sold out and our restaurant will be buzzing,” said Colleen Huther, general manager of the Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver hotel. “Obviously, the bar will be a very popular place to be with special NCAA cocktails. It’s going to be putting Denver high on the map, which is what we want.”

Eight teams will compete in two days of action,Friday and Sunday. The games begin early Friday afternoon with four contests — two in the afternoon and two more in the evening. There are no games scheduled on Saturday, giving fans time to tour the city.

“It really is important to have that activity so that we can get back to where we were pre-pandemic,” said Laura Rodriguez of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. “We want to see visitors spend money on hotels, restaurants, transportation to entertainment as it really helps our local economy.”

The winners from the Second Round of games on Sunday move onto the Sweet Sixteen, which takes place at multiple sites across the country next weekend.

March Madness will be back in Denver. The NCAA said it will be a host city again in 2025. This will offer the Mile High City not just another shot of tourism dollars, but another chance for the region to show off as one of the nation’s premier sports destinations.

I serve as the afternoon host for KUNC’s All Things Considered. My job is to keep our listeners across Northern Colorado informed on the day’s top stories from around the communities we serve. On occasion, I switch roles and hit the streets of northern Colorado digging up human interest stories or covering a major event that’s taking place in our listening area.