Sweet 16 brings big money to metro

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Downtown Kansas City will be packed with Jayhawk fans Thursday night as KU battles Purdue in the Sweet 16.

This is the first time in 22 years Kansas City has hosted an NCAA Men’s Regional.

Tickets to the Sweet 16 sold out in December as many local Jayhawk fans expected KU to play here, and now they are.

For those who don’t have a ticket, you can either fork over a couple hundred dollars on the secondary market or gather in Power and Light with other KU fans to watch the game when it tips off around 8:30 p.m.

Thousands of KU fans packed into the Sprint Center Wednesday to watch the Jayhawks practice.

Kansas City hosted the opening round of the NCAA tournament back in 2013 but hasn't hosted a regional since 1995.

With the Sweet 16 on a much larger national stage, it puts more pressure on the city to do it right.

"The eyes are upon us," said Kathy Nelson with the KC Sports Commission. "And so we have a lot to do this week to make sure the student athletes have a great time, that they feel that Kansas City wants them here, and the fans and the coaches."

City officials expect KU, Oregon, Michigan and Purdue fans to spend a total of $10-million this weekend as they stay at our hotels and eat out at our restaurants.

"Having KU in the mix is really exciting for us," Nelson added. "We moved a lot of tickets early on. I think with that expectation that we might see KU play here so it's easy for us to sell out."

The Kansas City Sports Commission hopes to hold another round of NCAA games soon. They’ve already submitted proposals to the NCAA to host sometime between 2019 and 2022, and they’ll learn in April whether we get another opening round, a regional, or nothing.

"It's a little bit more national spotlight probably so a little more excitement for those four teams that are in our city," Nelson said. "Whenever you’re hosting on a national level, it's exciting. It's great whether it's early round or regional. We’ll take whatever."