ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The buzz has begun in downtown St. Louis as the participants in the NCAA Basketball Midwest Regional Finals are arriving. Teams from Kansas, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Ohio University are coming in, and legions of their fans are expected to follow.
“We are excited. We are excited,” Lynn Raney said waiting outside the Marriot Union Station for the Ohio University players to arrive Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve got a good number of alums here. And I know I talked with the alum office and they said people are calling them left and right.”
And of course students and fans from the Athens, Ohio campus will follow for the weekend. Ohio U is likely to bring the smallest contingent to St. Louis, but another alum, Phil Ruben, says a national distinction should have tavern owners licking their chops. The Princeton Review named Ohio U. the nation’s number one party school for 2012.
“That’s right. That’s right. Good education, too,” he quickly adds.
For him, the Cinderella Bobcats making the Sweet 16 at all is a dream.
“Completely pumped up, never thought in a million years that a, they would be in the Sweet 16 and, b, it would be the city I live in. Couldn’t pass it up to come down.”
Many others are expected to feel the same way. The tournament is expected to fill seven-thousand hotel rooms this weekend, contributing to an $8 million economic impact on the city.
At the Four Seasons Hotel, they say business in March is usually somewhat slow. It will be anything but that this weekend.
“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Four Seasons General Manager Alper Oztok said. “It helps the restaurant, the bar, the spa, the guest rooms, the private bars and all that. It really helps us with the revenue stream.”
But what about the teams? Which one to adopt? At the Four Seasons they’re covering all be.
“Not picking any sides,” Oztok said with a laugh. “We love all of them. We love all of them.”
But it’s a different story at the Three-Sixty Sports Bar atop the Ballpark Hilton. There, the chef is a Mizzou guy, and Kansas fans are low on his list of favorite people.
“We’re all about North Carolina this time of year,” Rex Hale said of making his the official Tar Heel bar for the weekend. “That’s what I’m thinking, and besides they’re gonna be staying with us here at the hotel.”
North Carolina’s base of operations is the Ballpark Hilton. North Carolina State is at the Sheraton City Center. Kansas is staying at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch, and Ohio U. is at the Marriott Union Station.
The teams will each have a practice session in the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday. The practices are free and open to the public. The schedule is as follows:
Noon – 12:50 p.m. Ohio
1 – 1:50 p.m. N.C. State
2:10 – 3 p.m. North Carolina
3:10 – 4 p.m. Kansas
There will also be a pep rally with bands from all four schools in Kiener Plaza Friday at noon.