College basketball in the spotlight in St. Louis in the coming weeks

ST. LOUIS - For the next 11 days, men's college basketball will usher the St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Cardinals from the center sports stage in St. Louis.

Scottrade Center is hosting Men's Division I college basketball conference tournaments back to back.

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament starts tonight. The SEC, featuring the Missouri Tigers, will play next week.

Only three cities in America are hosting more than one tournament: New York, Las Vegas, and St. Louis.

"You know we're always put up there with those two cities. It is cool," said Melissa Kelley, CEO of Downtown STL, Inc.

There is a definite buzz downtown. It's not just the games; it's business.

The tournaments will bring in excess of 200,000 people to the city; each spending an average of close to $300/day; a total of $22 to $25 million in direct spending with 22 games over 11 days.

Downtown residents feel the games and the crowds "sell" downtown not only as a place for a vacation but also as a place to live.

"When we have events likes this … it's the best time of year. It's so much," Kelley said. "People are walking all over the sidewalks. They're in their school garb. The residents love it…both tournaments are really big. The fact that they are back to back is a major win for St. Louis."

The SEC tournament next week is the biggest prize.

"It's 5 days … 14 teams … 13 games … national TV exposure … 8-9 NCAA Tournament bids on the line," said Frank Viverito, President of the St.Louis Sports Commission. "It's a big-time event and St. Louis wants to play in the big time."

Tickets are available for both events.

The Missouri Valley tournament is in its 28th year in St. Louis. The next chance to land the SEC tournament will be 2026. It's booked elsewhere until then.

St. Louis will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2020.

The Missouri Valley Tournament at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 1, 2018. (Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI)