The Sweet Sixteen tournament comes to Rupp Arena today – bringing with it scores of high school basketball players, boosters, and a sizable economic impact for Lexington. City officials are eager to keep it that way.
Rupp Arena has hosted the Sweet Sixteen since 1995. A study conducted that year by the Matrix Group estimated that the tournament brought in just over $3 million dollars to the venue and surrounding businesses. If one extrapolates those numbers out to 2010, the overall impact now rests closer to $5 million – that’s according to Lexington Center Corporation president and CEO Bill Owen, who says the tournament represents a unique draw.
"As I connect with my peer group in terms of building management in other cities and explain to them that over a four day period we have between a hundred and a hundred and fifteen thousand patrons watching high school basketball games, they just can't believe it," he says.
Lexington’s contract to host the tournament runs out in 2014. Owen says it’s unclear what effect the proposed renovation of Rupp Arena could have on the Sweet Sixteen. Karl Schmitt, executive director of the Louisville Sports Commission, has said his city is also interested in bidding on the tournament in 2015.