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With Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center, downtown KC businesses stay busy

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- College basketball fans are swarming the Power & Light District for the Big 12 Tournament, and businesses in the area are booming because of it.

Business mangers are extending hours, adding staff and making other changes so they can supply the demand.

The Ambassador Hotel on Grand expanded and added more rooms to accommodate guests who want to stay near the Sprint Center.

"We sold out every single night with just 43 rooms. It was important for us to build a new tower to add those rooms and capitalize off the momentum of downtown," said Eric Willey, sales manager at the hotel.

The Ambassador opened its new tower on Wednesday, just in time for the Big 12. Now, there are 70 more rooms for basketball fans.

"We welcomed our first guests and we are sold out for the entire hotel for today and tomorrow," Willey said.

Aside from basketball, guests are on a quest for Kansas City barbecue. Fans can fulfill that mission a few blocks away from the Sprint Center at Plowboys Barbecue. The downtown restaurant is usually a lunch time spot, but that changes during the Big 12.

"We did extend our hours, but we have to add more staff," general manager Blair Cragg said. "We have to be ready for maybe some of our peak times changing depending on the tournament schedule. Plowboys has its Big 12 routine down to a science after four years downtown."

But one nearby business is opening its doors Friday for the first time ever.

"The Big 12 historically brings a lot of fun, a lot of revenue to the city," said Kinley Strickland, co-owner of the KC Daiquiri Shop. "We are fortunate enough to open at this time."

"I think with our 31 signature mixes we have something for everyone," Strickland said.

Fingers are crossed for a profitable opening weekend.

"We're going old school," Strickland said. "We have a street team with flyers, so we will have people passing out flyers down at the Sprint Center letting them know we are just one block up."

Wherever they end up, fans are eager to spend their time and their money at downtown businesses.

"I'm a huge fan of Johnny's Taven," said Trent Smith, a K-State fan. "I've been coming here for years. Pizza Bar is really fun. No Other Pub is really fun. I live in Topeka, so coming downtown, I'm never bored. I'm always trying new places."

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