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Return of First Four to Dayton brings opportunity for economic rebound

A picture of the red Dayton Flyers logo at the UD Arena.
Leila Goldstein

Spending in the region will go far beyond basketball tickets for the NCAA games.

The NCAA’s First four is back in Dayton next week after the games were canceled in 2020 and held in a bubble in Indiana in 2021. But the return is not just a boom for Dayton’s status in the minds of college basketball fans. It’s an economic driver for the region.

University of Dayton officials say they expect over 100,000 fans over the next couple weeks and an estimated $5 million impact on the Dayton area. The Big Hoopla is also planning a four mile run, a STEM challenge for K-8 students and a family festival in the city’s Oregon District this weekend. Organizers predict spending in the region will go far beyond game tickets.

“All of our businesses, all those hotels, all of those restaurants, all of those shops are going to see a bump in their business, which everybody needs right now,” said Sarah Spees, director of the Big Hoopla events. “We are very supportive of all of the businesses, not just in [Dayton,OH] but in our region. The people will come and they might stay in Mason, Ohio, they might stay closer to Columbus. But they're going to be here for three to four days and they're going to enjoy our community.”

This year the UD Arena is also hosting 24 high school basketball games over the next two weeks. The first games of the Girls State Tournament start March 10.

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.