ARLINGTON — By the time the national champs cut down the nets, visitors attending the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four and its related events will have brought in an estimated $276 million to the Texas economy, officials say.The college basketball semifinals and the championship game are set for April 5 and April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, but fans, media and workers from across the country are expected to start arriving in north Texas as early as March 20 for Final Four-related events. Besides breaking previous attendance records, the Final Four is expected to bring nearly $183 million and $56 million in spending, respectively, to the host cities of Dallas and Arlington, according to an economic analysis commissioned by local event organizers.For Arlington, that means a projected $786,542 in new sales tax revenue, which is used for expenses ranging from street maintenance to paying off city debt.“Major events contribute to our community’s economic health,” Deputy City Manager Theron Bowman told the Star-Telegram in an email. “Dollars that visitors spend with local merchants provide jobs and support Arlington families. The revenue increment received from taxes helps to support public roadways, transportation, utility and technology infrastructure and city services.”Estimates have each of the three games drawing 85,739 fans to AT&T stadium, exceeding attendance of 73,350 to 74,326 per game at last year’s Final Four at the Georgia Dome, the report said. Final Four attendance has exceeded 73,000 four times and 75,000 twice in recent years. “The relative newness of AT&T Stadium and its reputation as one of the best stadiums in the world will draw additional fans,” according to the study, which was provided to the state comptroller’s office.State fundingRecently, the comptroller’s office notified Arlington, Dallas and the local organizing committee that they would be eligible to seek reimbursement for up to nearly $10.8 million from the state’s Major Event Trust Fund for costs associated with hosting the championship. Such expenses typically include police, fire and emergency medical services staffing, transportation management, additional security, code enforcement, legal expenses, sanitation and logistical support, Bowman said.The NCAA and the local organizing committee expect to spend at least $30 million on events, the economic study reported.To participate, Arlington’s required match is $329,778 and Dallas’ match is $1,155,710, according to the comptroller. Most of the official events and hotel rooms blocked for the activities are in Dallas. The Legislature created the Major Events Trust Fund to help draw events to Texas from other states. The comptroller sets aside millions of dollars in sales, liquor, rental car and hotel occupancy tax revenue projected to be generated from out-of-town visitors and uses the money to help cities, counties or committees offset expenses required to host an event.“The Major Events Trust Fund was established by the Legislature as an avenue for the state to assist cities and counties in attracting high-profile events, such as NCAA Final Four, to Texas,” said comptroller’s office spokesman R.J. DeSilva.For Super Bowl XLV in Arlington in 2011, the host committee and host cities were able to tap $31.2 million set aside by the comptroller for reimbursement of expenses. Arlington sought $2.7 million from the state fund for costs such as salaries and overtime for police and firefighters and to pay for ice and snow removal at the municipal airport and entertainment district.Record-setting crowdsEarlier this year, AT&T Stadium hosted the NCAA Men’s Southern Regional, which some consider a dress rehearsal for the Final Four. The stadium drew the fifth largest crowd in that event’s history, according to the report.Officials project total attendance at each Final Four game at 111,769 after adding credentialed media, security and other workers to the 85,000-plus fans, according to the study. That would exceed the record-setting 108,713 people attending the 2010 NBA All-Star Game at AT&T Stadium, then called Cowboys Stadium.The local organizing committee has blocked more than 40,000 rooms for the universities and other groups at 25 north Texas hotels. But with only one convention-class, full-service hotel in the entertainment district, only a few visitors are expected to stay in Arlington. Most are expected to stay in Dallas hotels, which can fetch $265 a night compared with Arlington’s $200 a night, according to the study.Counting hotel rentals, food, entertainment and shopping, each visitor is expected to spend between $350 and $600 a day.Even if they are staying in Dallas, Fort Worth or other cities, Arlington officials hope visitors spend some time and cash at shops, restaurants and tourist destinations outside of the stadium. “We always hope that attendees will take the time to visit other Arlington attractions and do some shopping, or that their family and friends in the area will join them for dinner or a movie,” Bowman said. ESPN will broadcast the games from Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, which is expected to draw thousands of fans and residents.Being in the national and international spotlight again gives Arlington an opportunity to show off assets, such as the University of Texas at Arlington and its major employers, which could yield future economic development opportunities, Bowman said. “We hope that businesses will see a reason to trade with area firms or locate here, that our colleges and universities are seen as an incredible educational institutions and that our welcoming ways will attract future residents,” Bowman said. “While we never know for certain what will spark an individual’s interest, we do want the world to know Arlington is an exciting place to be. This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock