March Madness brings big tourism win to Arizona

Monday night’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four championship game in Glendale marks the culmination of a whirlwind four days of events in the greater Phoenix area that will deliver an estimated $250 million-$300 million positive economic impact according to a new report from the Common Sense Institute. 

This is the second NCAA Men’s Final Four held in Arizona, solidifying the state’s place as a major destination for sports tourism and events like the Super Bowl, the Waste Management Open, and various golf, fencing, and other major championships. Thanks to the Diamondbacks, Phoenix has also hosted World Series games. 

“Hosting the NCAA Men’s Final Four is a monumental task that requires the cooperation of countless stakeholders, from local businesses to government agencies,” Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association President and CEO Kim Sabow said. “This year’s tournament is not only showcasing Arizona’s world-class facilities and hospitality but is also reinforcing the state’s reputation as a premier destination for major sporting events.” 

Key findings from the report include: 

  • $250-$300M: Estimated combined economic impact of activity at Arizona’s four days of Final Four events.
  • $20 billion: Contribution of the combined Sports and Tourism sector to Arizona’s Real Gross Domestic Product in 2024 (+8.6% year-over-year).
  • $12.7 billion: Estimated direct sales by Arizona’s hotels, casinos, sports and other professional performance venues, and other components of the state’s Sports and Tourism sector in 2024.
  • 320,000: Number of people directly and indirectly employed by Arizona’s Sports and Tourism sector, or 10% of the state’s total workforce.
  • 3.5%: Projected average annual growth rate of the sector over the next decade

Big visitor numbers

The average attendance at the Final Four games between 2010 and 2019 is 72,733. Attendance has been recovering slowly since 2020. In 2022, average attendance per-game was 69,800, and in 2023 attendance was 72,400. 

The average attendance for a concert at State Farm Stadium over the same period has been about 52,000, which means basketball over these last few days will have delivered an additional 20,000 more fans to Glendale to eat and drink at restaurants, shop, and spend money on recreational activities before and after the main event. 

CSI estimates that 150,000 people will attend the Men’s Final Four and surrounding events in Phoenix over three-and-a-half days beginning April 6th, with 58,500 (39%) of those attendees visiting from out of state. 

Given historical average expenditure data, these visitors spend:

  • $73 million on hotels and lodging in Phoenix
  • $12.9 million on meals
  • $2.4 million on drinks
  • $29.6 million on transportation and airfare
  • $43.7 million on game tickets over the course of the event weekend

“The NCAA Final Four is a catalyst for economic opportunity,” said Kamryn Brunner, research analyst at CSI Arizona. “Our findings are once again showing the vital role that sports and tourism play in Arizona’s economy, contributing billions in GDP and supporting thousands of jobs across the state.” 

CSI estimates that this new spending will result in approximately $15 million in new sales tax revenue for state and local jurisdictions. 

The Purdue Boilermakers and the University of Connecticut Huskies, both no. 1 seeds, tip off at 6:20 pm tonight at State Farm Stadium.

Guest Contributor

Add comment

Subscribe to the Dry Heat

Get updates on the most important news delivered right to your email. Fully personalized options. No SPAM. Unsubscribe anytime.

Sign Me Up!

Let’s Get Social

Chamber Business News wants to connect with you. Follow us, tweet, share, post, comment... however you get social is the perfect way to connect.