March Madness Is Back in Orlando

Get ready to cue up the bands … and the cash registers. March Madness is returning to downtown Orlando, with college hoops and retail hopes in the air.

The City of Orlando and Amway Center were awarded first- and second-round games of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in 2017 — March Madness, as it’s popularly known. Games were previously hosted by Orlando in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2004 and earlier this year, when more than 16,000 visitors arrived to generate $13 million in economic impact for the region.

The games will be hosted locally by the University of Central Florida, Stetson University and the Central Florida Sports Commission, which is steadily pulling together an impressive roster of major collegiate events. Already announced, the Central Florida Sports Commission, UCF and the Amway Center will host the American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship in 2016 and 2017. Also, the Central Florida Sports Commission and UCF will host the 2016 and 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s College Cup at the new Orlando City Soccer Stadium.

“We envisioned precisely these types of high-caliber events for our community venues and for our region that offer incredible experiences and bolster our local economy,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer during the Nov. 17  press conference.

Added John Bisignano, president & CEO of the Central Florida Sports Commission: “The countdown to Orlando has begun, and we look forward to welcoming the NCAA, the teams and fans from all over the country to the No. 1 tourist destination in the world!”

Just how big a deal is March Madness? It’s certainly no drop in the bucket.

Consider this statistic: With an estimated 50 million Americans participating in March Madness office pools, companies annually lose at least $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament, according to calculations by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

People are glued to TVs or at arenas.

An economic slam dunk.