SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — March Madness is here, and the stakes are high in Sioux Falls as the USD Coyotes and SDSU Jackrabbits battle for Summit League titles. But unlike past years, fans will not be at the tournament; the crowds won’t accompany the games which will happen at the Sanford Pentagon this year.
Teri Schmidt, executive director of Experience Sioux Falls, says no fans means fewer dollars.
“Well, there’s no doubt that without fans it’s going to be a lesser economic benefit for the community, because when those fans were here, not only did they go to the games, of course, but the restaurants were full, people were shopping all over town, buying gas, flying in, flying out,” Schmidt said. “Probably, we’re going to lose probably around a million dollars in economic benefit from the fans not being here.”
However, that’s not to say there will be no financial benefit.
“Even with no fans, it’s a wonderful economic boost for the area, especially this year with the downsizing of all of our events and conventions from COVID,” Schmidt said. “So, I mean we’ve got the busloads of the players and the coaches, officials, coming in.”
And the fans have to be somewhere.
“The thing that we cannot count is how many quote unquote fans really are here anyway, even though they can’t go to the games,” Schmidt said. “And we really won’t have a good feel for that probably until after the tournament’s over.”
Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO of the SDSU Foundation, says this event is typically fertile ground for raising money.
“People are feeling a lot of pride about SDSU, and then people watching around the country, they, SDSU’s just more top of mind around March Madness time, so we see it kind of translate into fundraising success in a lot of different ways,” Erpenbach said.
This year the Summit League basketball championships will be markedly but still not entirely different.
“People are going to be tuning in, they’re going to be excited about it, they want to find a way to help South Dakota State, but it certainly is more limiting when you can’t have that time to sit down, talk, see how they’re doing, tell them about what’s happening at South Dakota State, and that generally leads to, ‘how can I help at SDSU,'” Erpenbach said.