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March Madness brings economic boost to San Diego businesses

It's March Madness time. The San Diego State Aztecs are the eighth seed — and looking for their first-ever tournament win against Creighton, in Texas. Here at home, SDSU is playing host for the tournament's first two rounds. KPBS reporter Alexander Nguyen looks at the economic impact.

It's that time of year: March Madness. The annual NCAA men's basketball tournament is underway.

With San Diego State invited to the Big Dance and also hosting the first two rounds of the tournament, local businesses say they're already seeing a boost.

"Well, you have St. Paddy's Day and March Madness. For us, March Madness kind of wins out,” Dirty Birds Bar & Grill director of training Michael Feldman said.


At the restaurant's College Area location, there was already a good-sized crowd in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday. Feldman said he expected it to be packed once the Aztecs start playing.

"And then Friday and Sunday will be extra busy because you have a lot of the games here just around the corner at Viejas Arena," he said.

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But it’s not just sports bars that are seeing a boost from the tournament. Next door at The Cutt'n Edge barbershop, owner Tony Ganaway said he was already seeing more customers come through.

“Definitely seeing the surge already, even today, and tomorrow is supposed to be even better," he said. "So I think it's very beneficial. We definitely need it, especially after everything has happened with the economy.”


According to Sports San Diego, the San Diego Tourism Authority's sports commission, the tournament is expected to pump $6-$10 million into the local economy. The last time the tournament was held in San Diego, about 50 percent of attendees were from out of town.

“So that's obviously a very good number to highlight of people that are coming in for the event, staying in hotels, eating at our restaurants and supporting our local economy,” Sports San Diego director Nathan Kopp said.

Eight teams will play first-round games on Friday at Viejas Arena on the SDSU campus. Those teams got a chance to practice in the arena on Thursday, each one getting 40 minutes on the court, with a five-minute gap in between practices.