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Organizers, businesses and fans ready for NCAA women’s regional games in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bring on the basketball. Sprint Center is ready.

College basketball's finest come to Kansas City this weekend as the NCAA Women's Midwest Regional comes to the big arena on Grand Boulevard. It's the third time college basketball's decision-makers have tabbed the Sprint Center to host a regional, counting both men's and women's teams.

It's a smaller affair than Kansas City has hosted in the past, but the regional is a big dance nonetheless. The arena is decked out in NCAA banners, and the Midwest Region court has been in place since Tuesday.

The Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau reports the local economy will see $5.2 million in business come to town, factoring in spending by the NCAA, member schools and fans coming to see the games.

"Kansas City is great. People here love basketball," Dayna Scherf, Big 12 Conference associate commissioner, told FOX4 on Wednesday.

Scherf, who has worked with the Big 12 for 19 years, is assigned to engineer postseason championship tournament sites and atmospheres in all sports played by member schools. The Big 12 is considered the host conference at this weekend's Midwest Regional.

Scherf said she appreciates seeing the fuss Kansas City affords.

"It's a great vibe. It's a great basketball town. It's a great basketball city. People here know basketball. They appreciate it," Scherf said.

That vibe is often found in the stores and restaurants that surround Sprint Center, including the Power & Light District. When basketball fans travel with their teams, they need places to eat, sleep and shop while they're in Kansas City.

"We focus on the event, but the byproduct of it and for the city, and that's why these cities hosting as well. It's a great byproduct and the restaurants and the hotels and everywhere else the fans like to go," Scherf said.

And those shopkeepers and restauranteurs in downtown Kansas City say they've seen basketball season bring big bucks to town with various tournaments. However, the growth is sometimes hard to quantify.

"It goes crazy. People come in buying stuff," said Gabrielle Smith, a manager-in-training at Rally House.

Smith's store sits just across the street from Sprint Center and alongside the Power and Light District. She said tournament time is a horn of plenty, in terms of traffic and business, and downtown retailers mark their calendars for March.

"The month of March Madness pays for the cost of the store," Smith told FOX4. "(That's for) the whole year, so that should tell you something. That's how great it is for us business-wise."

Schref said each time postseason basketball comes to Kansas City, the NCAA is persuaded to send it, and those fans, back again. Proof will come in 2019 when the men's Midwest Regional returns to the Sprint Center.

When the games tip off on Friday, Overland Park's Brenda VanLangen will bear a proud smile.

VanLangen, a longtime television and radio broadcaster, has called play-by-play for 20 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournaments, including work for ESPN and Westwood One radio.

Brenda VanLangen

However, his time around, VanLangen, who served as director of the 1998 NCAA Women's Final Four in Kansas City, said she's working as an ambassador who helped bring the tournament to town. VanLangen says she's worked with city leaders to persuade the NCAA to bring the tournament here again.

"For years and years and years, we've had host committee people who go out of their way, above and beyond, who treat the teams that are here, the coaches who are here and the fans who are here, to the premiere experience in basketball," VanLangen said Wednesday.

VanLangen has announced a lot of basketball, including the first two rounds of this year's NCAA Women's Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee. She said she's proud to see this event held in the city she loves.

Tickets for this year's Women's NCAA Midwest Regional at Sprint Center are available here. Games begin Friday when Mississippi State battles North Carolina State at 6 p.m. That game will be followed by UCLA playing against Texas.