For the first time since 2007, the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held in the city of Chicago. The tournament kicks off Thursday, March 14 at the United Center and runs through Sunday, March 17.
In a Monday press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, alongside leaders from Chicago sports organizations and Big Ten representatives, expressed his excitement for the tournament’s return.
“I’m glad,” Emanuel said. “After 2007, it was a dry spell.”
During that five-year dry spell, Indianapolis hosted the tournament. With its return to the big city, event organizers are expecting to see an equally big impact in crowd size.
“We’re probably going to see some attendance records this year,” said Andrea Williams, the Associate Commissioner for Football and Basketball Championships for the Big Ten Conference. “Of course, that is very easy when you have the success of the programs we do with our teams this year.”
That success includes “about six teams that have all been ranked in the top ten this year” and “two vying for the one and two spot,” Williams said.
It seems the city of Chicago can expect a correspondingly successful financial boost from hosting the tournament. “Almost every one of the games are sold out at this point, they’re down to single tickets I think,” Emanuel said. “We have 10,000 rooms in our hotels out. There’s about $40 million of economic activity.”
One reason behind the popularity of this year’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball tournament is that Chicago’s population of Big Ten alumni living within its borders is more than any other city in the country. It’s a selling point the mayor made sure to emphasize.
“There’s a built-in base,” Emanuel said. “If you’re thinking of other sporting events we’re ready to host ‘em and have them here.”
For now, Chicago will have to settle for basketball. But that’s okay with Emanuel.
“I love this sport. I think this is a great way, going into March Madness, to kick it off with the Big Ten here in the city of Chicago,” he said. “I think this is a great event for the city of Chicago and we’re excited to have you.”