The basketball buzz is building in the Bluff City. Thursday is the tipoff of the American Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament, the first time Memphis will host in five years.
While many local fans in the Tigers Den hope for a deep Memphis run, the other 11 out of town AAC teams also mean a slam dunk for the area’s tourism industry.
The four days of festivities mean an expected multi-million dollar infusion to nearby hotels, restaurants and other businesses expected to benefit from the basketball boom.
“We are going to be very busy, looking forward to it,” John Townsend, assistant manager at the downtown Huey’s location said.
He’s bringing in extra staff this weekend, since the restaurant is just a stone’s throw from FedExForum and the tournament’s 11 games.
“A lot of times with those big events, sometimes at night, you get just one big bang, and then you just glide through it, but this will be one of those constants,” Townsend said.
The basketball means big bucks. Those with Memphis Tourism expect the AAC tournament will pump in between $4 and $6 million to the area’s economy.
6,000 total tickets were sold to the conference’s 12 teams and Memphis Tigers fans are expected to gobble up thousands more.
“If Memphis is playing Sunday, which I fully expect them to be, this place is going to be crazy down here,” Kevin Kane, the President and CEO of Memphis Tourism, said.
Hospitality leaders said both the local and out of state AAC fans are a perfect blend to soak in the Bluff City – and spend money.
“We think we are a great location, with FedExForum, the entertainment district, downtown package is perfect for college basketball,” Kane said.
“I think it’s great, not only for all of downtown, not just the hotels but the restaurants, the attractions, it brings a lot of people to Memphis, it brings a spotlight on Memphis,” Peabody Memphis Hotel General Manager Doug Browne said.
The AAC basketball tournament will be held the next three years in Fort Worth, TX – meaning the earliest Memphis would host again is 2023.
Downtown Memphis is also expected to benefit from a Memphis 901 FC soccer match Saturday night and St. Patrick’s Day festivities throughout the weekend.