Indianapolis welcomes March Madness fans from across the country

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The games are underway, and so is the madness in Indiana.

March Madness was fully alive Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Hinkle and Bankers Life fieldhouses and the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

The excitement began Thursday night in Bloomington and West Lafayette and continued Friday for the first round.

Now most of the action is underway in Indianapolis.

David Lucado came all the way from California to be in Indianapolis. It was his first time in the city.

“Everybody’s been really nice. It’s a super-clean city. Definitely a little colder than Newport Beach, California, but we’re having a great time,” Lucado said.

It’s Danny Corbett and AJ Keith’s first time ever attending March Madness events.

“It’s kind of surreal, because March Madness, I’ve always filled out the brackets and everything, but I’ve never been to a game. It’s kind of really cool, surreal just being here.” Danny Corbett, of Trenton, Ohio, explained to News 8.

All over downtown Indianapolis, you could tell the city put its best foot forward, and fans have noticed.

“I love it, because during COVID times, y’all are able to put some people to come here because last year you didn’t have a March Madness. So, it’s really blessed to see Indiana step up and just do it for everybody,” said Joshua Burns, of San Antonio, Texas.

Visit Indy told News 8 more than 2,000 volunteers are ready to welcome thousands of fans over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

“The city needed this. It’s a huge moral booster. It is a recovery mechanism for the industry,” said Morgan Snyder, Visit Indy’s director of public relations. “Everyone that has worked so hard to put this together, we really do hope that this is an economic impact of over $100 million.”

Morgan explained that even though Friday was only officially Day 2 of the tournament, they were already seeing results.

“Yes, we are already starting to see that economic impact hit the city. Teams already in the hotels, fans already starting to come in. Restaurants, our restaurants are loving are loving some of the visitors. that are coming in,” Snyder said.

Around downtown, News 8 saw signs reminding people to mask up and stay socially distanced.

“Everything is social distanced, so I feel safe,” Rudy Jacques, from Arlington Heights, Illinois, said.

Visit Indy told News 8 that with the influx of visitors, they anticipate a boost to hotel occupancy.

“So, at this point, we are estimating that our downtown hotels, nearby hotels could see be seeing anywhere from 60% occupancy, 50%-60% occupancy. Then our perimeter hotels, surrounding hotels could see even with 15% occupancy because we know people will come to the city and not just be staying downtown, but all around Indianapolis,” Snyder said.

And fans News 8 spoke with said they are indeed spending money on our hotels, restaurants and shops.

“Yeah, the economy really needs it. I’m looking to have a great time,” Lucado said.

Every out-of-town person News 8 spoke with said they think Indianapolis has done a great job of hosting these events so far. Two people who came to the March Madness events for the first time in person told News 8 they will come back to Indianapolis.