While many are rallying around Michigan State to win it all tonight, hoping that a championship will at the very least boost morale, it's our job to look into whether or not the Spartans run to the last game of the NCAA men's basketball championship was a boon or a bust to the city of Detroit.
In case you didn't know, the city just happens to be hosting the Final Four, which makes the Spartans the first team since Duke in 1994 to play the final game in its home state and they're hoping to become the first team since UCLA in 1972 to win it all under those circumstances.
Last week, we brought up the idea that Michigan State making the Final Four might have actually diminished the returns the city of Detroit. The rationale was that, by eliminating an out-of-town team, the more robust ticket sales market from the local fans would be negated by slower business downtown. The thought being that fans that came from Louisville, who MSU beat, would have had to stay in the city, while Spartans fans could see the game and drive home.
Well, we've come back with the results. Michigan State's role in the semifinals and now the finals has clearly boosted ticket prices. Even though it's hard to say exactly how much prices have gone up, the evidence of hometown love is there.
StubHub reports that 64 percent of sales for tonight's game came from people buying in the state of Michigan, while only two percent of sales come from fans purchasing from North Carolina. And after the Spartans' win against UCONN, the lowest priced tickets for the Finals, which were selling on the secondary market for $87 jumped to $196 yesterday, according to ticket search site FanSnap.com.
But we knew that was going to happen. So how about the downtown business that some speculated was going to suffer? Well, from everyone we've spoken to, Saturday was a big day with all the excited locals getting into town and partying.
Kathleen Munroe, one of the owners of Checker Bar & Grill, located about a mile from Ford Field, said Saturday just might have been the best day the restaurant has had since it opened in 1955.
"We saw it as a positive that people could drive in and make last-minute travel plans in this economy," Munroe said.
Checker's is a good economic indicator since the restaurant is located in the Detroit's financial district and it's known as a business lunch place. The restaurant is only open limited hours from Monday through Friday, but opened up on Saturday because of the Final Four.
"The crowds here on Saturday were beyond belief," Munroe said. "This was definitely bigger than the crowds we got for the Super Bowl (in 2006)."
Mike Vivaro, proprietor of Angelina's Bistro, located only 300 yards away from Ford Field, said that Saturday was also his restaurant's best day ever, even though they've only been open for five months.
Our check with the cab and limo companies also didn't reveal that Michigan State's place in the Final Four, and now in the championship game, had hurt business. On Saturday night, Diplomat Limo had six drivers shuttling around customers all night, said Diplomat's Rob Shah.
Everything is not all sunshine, however. While Saturday was everything that Detroit expected and more, Michigan State's presence seemed to have hurt business on Sunday. With no games going on, many Michigan State fans apparently back where they live and UCONN fans looking to get out, we were told that downtown Detroit was completely dead. And while Monday is expected to be hopping again, especially if the Spartans prevail, the economic impact could be hurt by the fact that a major snowstorm is rolling into town. That might keep the crowd that doesn't have tickets from coming in to be part of the party.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com