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NCAA basketball tournament will give Omaha an economic boost

The games have begun. Thousands of fans are now in Omaha to cheer on their favorite college basketball team, and that...

Posted: Mar 26, 2018 1:38 AM
Updated: Mar 26, 2018 1:38 AM

The games have begun. Thousands of fans are now in Omaha to cheer on their favorite college basketball team, and that means big money for the CenturyLink Center and Omaha.

From the food trucks to the music, the new Capitol District also attracted a lot of people.

"It's been great," said Joshua Sanley, a college basketball fan.

People by the dozens showed up Friday dressed head to toe in team colors.

"I clang onto Duke when I was like ten years old and I've been riding that team ever since."

"Anywhere you go in the country you'll run into Duke fans," added Steven Saunders.

Saunders didn't let Mother Nature keep him away Friday.

"The weather doesn't bother me much. I don't care if it's cold or not."

Saunders was one of thousands that will have been in the downtown area this weekend, and when you combine everybody at the Capitol District with those who will be showing up at the CenturyLink Center, you can only imagine what that's going to do for the economy in Omaha.

"There are a lot of out-of-towners in here from the schools coming in and traveling in. It's always good to have that out-of-town money coming into your city," said Tom Zmolek, an events director.

In 2015, the City of Omaha found the CenturyLink Center provided more than $70 million for the community. Omaha raked in a good chunk of that because of the more than 52,000 people who showed up for basketball tournament games.

"It's always a welcomed thing," said Zmolek.

Flash forward three years later and the crowds are back.

"I love the atmosphere," said Saunders.

Those crowds, especially the Kansas fans, aren't going anywhere until at least Sunday. That means a lot of them will be spending money in Omaha and giving the city even more of an economic boost.

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