MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – While so many are focused on their basketball brackets, it’s college hockey fans filling both downtown areas the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament.
St. Paul is hosting the Big Ten Conference tournament at the Xcel Energy Center, while Minneapolis has the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament at the Target Center.
Forget March Madness, for these fans it’s all about the ice.
“We’ve watched some of that at the motel but, yeah, the focus is here, this is what we do” hockey fan Jim Moreland said.
With tens of thousands of fans flocking to St. Paul for the Big 10 Conference Tournament and to Minneapolis for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, businesses in the Twin Cities is booming.
“It helps our business out, it helps the businesses in the area out it…I think it’s great for the city to have,” Joe Kasel, co-owner of Eagle Street, said.
“We enjoy going to the malls and eating out. We’re staying over in St Paul so going up and down Grand Avenue, really fun,” fan Peggy Lucky said.
At Xcel Energy Center, the average fan spends at least $30 in addition to the cost of their ticket.
That’s not including hotels and accommodations for out of towners.
“Oh, it’s fantastic. It’s a chance for our hotels to obviously fill up. It’s a chance for our restaurants to showcase what they have,” Adam Johnson vice president of marketing for Visit St. Paul said.
The Big 10 Conference will be held in Detroit next year, but the NCHC will stay at Target Center for the next five years.
Which means more money for the sport, and city.
“To bring college hockey championship back to the city of Minneapolis, I think it’s great for the city. Certainly it’s the state of hockey, and this city embraces hockey, so it’s wonderful to be here,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said.
This is the first year both of these tournaments have been held in the Twin Cities simply because it’s the first time they’ve existed, since the teams broke apart from the WCHA.
Friday night more than 9,000 fans were at Target Center, organizers expect that number to go up in the coming years.