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Sports, St. Patrick’s Day to fuel downtown resurgence as COVID wanes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Big Ten will crown a tournament champion this weekend in front of a near-capacity crowd.

It’s the first time maximum-capacity crowds have been allowed at NCAA events since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Antwan Evans, owner of Crab 99 Bar & Restaurant, said, “The crowds are coming in. They are showing out. They are supporting their team and are filling the restaurant up.”

He expects more of the same downtown next week when Indianapolis hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re fully staffed. We got everyone ready. Our team loves this crowd every year, so we are definitely ready for it,” Evans said.

At The Whistle Stop bar and restaurant, owner Rob Strong says its been difficult finding good help as he sees business pick up. He purchased the restaurant nine months ago when business was slow, but he’s hoping for a boost in sales with a busy slate of events in March.

“Next Saturday, we will be packed in here, with supercross being right across the street (at Lucas Oil Stadium), Gainbridge Fieldhouse having the first round of the tournament, plus everyone is going to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend as well,” he said.

Indianapolis is also hosting the Division III NCAA men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships at IUPUI in March.

With local mask mandates gone, Strong hopes people feel more comfortable going out and socializing again. He’s trying to lure them back with a wide selection of drinks and entrees.

“We do half-pound burgers. Everything is unique. You don’t get what we offer everywhere. We have duck wings on the menu. There aren’t a lot of places that do duck wings. Our regular chicken wings are top 15 in the city,” he said.