MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tough day for hotels and restaurants in Memphis after hearing the news that March Madness will not have a weekend of games at FedEx Forum this upcoming spring. It was an opportunity for many businesses to have some financial comeback after tremendous losses during the pandemic.
In a statement, the NCAA announced on Monday that it will be relocating the 2021 Division I Men's Basketball Championship to a single location in Indianapolis due to COVID-19 concerns.
“My committee colleagues and I did not come lightly to the difficult decision to relocate the preliminary rounds of the 2021 tournament, as we understand the disappointment 13 communities will feel to miss out on being part of March Madness next year,” said Mitch Barnhart, chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and University of Kentucky athletics director.
Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane said the NCAA's decision is difficult news for businesses in the hospitality industry who were banking on that revenue.
"It’s 6,000 plus room nights for that weekend, thousands of visitors, millions of dollars spent," Kane said. "It’s disappointing, but we certainly understand the decision."
Tin Roof's regional manager Jock Marx said realistically for businesses with COVID-19 restrictions, like his, it would have been difficult to host all those people.
"As disappointing as it is and as a manager and as a person the stress of all that trying to cope with that large part all coming in at once it would be very logistically challenging," Marx said.
The hotel industry in Memphis has been hit the hardest throughout the pandemic, so an event like March Madness would have helped significantly. Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association president and CEO Wayne Tabor said the industry really needs more events so it can survive.
"What we need is to create a reason for our tourists to come back and our businesses to start booking business," Tabor said.
Marx said the only way Memphis could really facilitate the demand of March Madness is to see COVID-19 cases go down and restrictions lifted.
"If the restrictions aren’t lifted before then and we’re in a different environment where we can take care of the guests like we normally do it’s almost a small blessing because you don’t want anyone to come down to Beale Street and not have a good time," Marx said.
Kane said while it would have been great to have an event like this, it's only a matter of time before an event city, like Memphis, is back in business.
"Memphis is an event-driven town," Kane said. "We go from event to event, Memphis in May and to the next thing. This is what this city thrives on. We’re a festival town and we’ll be that way again."
The NCAA announced that Memphis will be a host city in 2024 for the 1st and 2nd rounds, which will bring even bigger crowds.