The NCAA announced Tuesday its future sites for tournaments and championships. Columbia was named a host site for the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The last time Columbia hosted the tournament was 1970. In 2015, the NCAA lifted its ban on team’s participating in South Carolina due to the Confederate flag flying on the Statehouse grounds. The ban was put in place in 2001.
“As you know, we as a city are joined at the hip to the University of South Carolina. Since 1801, this university has served as faithful index to the ambitions and fortunes of this state and served as the heart of the city of Columbia,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said Tuesday at a press conference.
“Everything we do, we do in concert, we do working together, to see the collective efforts of the city, our county, our friends from across the river in Lexington, the University of South Carolina, the most fantastic marketing team that the Convention and Business Bureau could possibly have, the great work here being done at one of the top arenas in the entire country, Colonial Life Arena.”
Columbia is set to host the First and Second Rounds scheduled for March 22 and 24 in 2019. The city is one of eight announced, and will play host to eight tournament teams. The event is predicted to draw more than $10 million in revenue to the city.
In an interview with the GSA Business Report Robin Wright of VisitGreenvilleSC said the NCAA men’s tournament yielded $3.75 million in direct spending, 6,300 room-nights and was the first to sell out of tickets (42,000).
“Our community is going to benefit tremendously by having an event like this in town,” USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin said. “When you're not from here, you only know what you hear. When people from around the country actually come in here and see what an unbelievable city this is and what beautiful people we have in this community, and this beautiful campus that we get to show off for everyone to see, it's a win-win for everybody.”
Greenville landed the 2017 tournament after the NCAA pulled championships from North Carolina because of House Bill 2, known as the “bathroom bill,” that banned transgender people from using a bathroom corresponding with the gender with which they identify.
Tuesday, Greenville was awarded the first and second round games of the 2022 men’s tournament, and will also be a regional host site for the 2020 NCAA women’s tournament.