This March, Metro Detroit is preparing to host 330 NCAA Division 1 wrestlers as well as a large fan base to Little Caesars Arena located in downtown Detroit
This tournament — the first NCAA competition since the beginning of the pandemic — is estimated to have more than a $10 million economic impact on the region, according to the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“A lot of people don’t really understand the magnitude of this event,” said Dave Beachnau, the senior vice president of sales, services and sports for the Detroit Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a niche sport, wrestling of course, but it has a huge following.”
In addition to the wrestlers themselves, the area is preparing to house thousands of fans. Due to the set-up of the tournament, the area has the opportunity to capitalize on a larger group of out-of-town guests for a longer period of time compared to other major sporting events.
“It doesn’t matter where the championship is held, people travel year-to-year no matter the location,” said Beachnau. “It’s unique in the sense that it’s not like a basketball tournament where we have eight teams come for the first and second rounds or when you host the regionals you have four teams. Wrestling you have 330 wrestlers and 10 weight classes but we could have anywhere from 65 to 70 different institutions represented during the championship.”
The economic reach of this tournament is expected to spread far beyond the city of Detroit and into Detroit suburbs such as the city of Troy.
“This tournament has a huge impact,” said Tara Tomcsik, the president and CEO of the Troy Chamber of Commerce. “Obviously when you’re working with Convention and Visitors Bureaus, you’re bringing in not just the teams and the excitement into our arenas, but it also fills our hotel rooms and also fills our restaurants…it also helps all of our retail industry, and it helps our tourism. It also brings a good amount of attention to Detroit and the Metro area as well.”
Hotels are strategizing how to make the most of this exposure. The Troy Hospitality Committee is working to ensure hotel rooms are being maximized by booking booster clubs and fan groups which is also helping to keep their banquet spaces fully booked.
“While we have these conversations, it’s more along the lines of ‘hey, I don’t have any space for this banquet, I have three teams coming in and 17 families coming in, who can take this one,’” said Tomcsik when referring to conversation amongst hoteliers. “The success is truly making sure we’re all booked up and there’s no more reservations available for anyone.”
Small businesses in Troy are excited for the business in the city as well, especially after a lack of dine-in business due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The hoteliers work alongside the many restaurants to keep business booming in all sectors of the community as well as to keep out-of-town guests excited to visit the region.
“The hospitality committee alluded to a bunch of rooms being booked here in the next couple of months,” said Paul Andoni, Owner of Shield’s Pizza. “They steer people to the restaurants because they have needs for catering and a place to host large parties. It’s certainly been a difficult two years in our industry with the pandemic and anything like this tournament just gets people out and people in town which hasn’t happened a lot lately. I’ve been told by some managers that their hotels are filled or just about, so knock on wood, I think things are finally about to get better.”
This NCAA Division 1 Wrestling tournament will be the first of many amateur sporting events that will draw from now until late May out-of-town guests from all over the country. Next month, The Detroit Sports Commission will hear about its bid to host the 2025 NFL Draft. It is also awaiting word on their bid to host the NCAA Final Four Basketball tournament for one of the years between 2027 through 2031.