March Madness has hit Rhode Island. Providence hosts six games in the first and second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship this week.
Eight teams square off at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Two double-headers will be held on Thursday. The winning teams will move on to a double-header on Saturday.
The games have all sold out; about 12,000 people are expected to attend each, according to Jim McCarvill, head of the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority. The arena hosted championship games in 2010, and McCarvill said they’re equipped to handle the influx of people.
“I don’t anticipate any problems with crowd control, although it will be a full house, and the parking lots are going to be full. We’re going to be very busy,"said McCarvill.
Duke and UNC Wilmington kick things off, with the first game Thursday afternoon. They’ll be followed by a matchup between Baylor and Yale. Thursday night, Miami plays Buffalo, and Arizona plays the winner between Vanderbilt and Wichita State.
The city is also making accommodations for the impending crowds. While 12,000 fans will be watching from the stands, some 30,000 to 50,000 people are expected to be milling about the city over for events and festivities, each day. Additionally, Providence celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, and St. Joseph’s Day this week.
Tourism officials are predicting a windfall for the state. The tournament is expected to generate some $3.4 million in revenue for local businesses. Providence Warwick Convention and Vistors Bureau pokeswoman Kristen Adamo said a good share of that will go to hotels.
“We looked at the zip codes of the people who did purchase tickets, and the bulk of them are outside the Rhode Island market, so we are expecting it to be a very busy hotel time,” said Adamo.
Restaurants are also getting ready for large crowds.
“There are several that have done street closures on small side streets, and doing tents,” said Adamo. “Places like Trinity Brewhouse and Murphy’s and the Rosendale. So we’re really expecting a busy weekend in terms of our restaurant scene.”
Parking is expected to be a challenge, Adamo added.
“Leave yourself ample time, an hour, an hour-and-a-half to get in, get here, really navigate the city. All that stuff.”
Some side streets will be closed near the convention center, and Providence has agreed to ease open container laws for the NCAA basketball tournament.