New Orleans begins countdown to Men’s Final Four; event to attract thousands

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 8:08 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Soon after Mardi Gras New Orleans’ tourism industry will get another huge boost as the city hosts the NCAA Men’s Final Four in April.

And city, state, and tourism leaders say the event and the activities surrounding it will be a slam dunk for the economy.

Governor John Bel Edwards joined Mayor Latoya Cantrell at a joint event to tout what the event will mean to the city and the state.

“This year is extra special. When you think about we in Louisiana, what this city, this region has been through over the last couple of years with the pandemic, it was about six months ago that one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit our state hit southeast Louisiana and through it all the NCAA has stuck with us,” said Edwards.

Cantrell says the city has worked hard to get back on track with large events in spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a reflection truly of the resiliency of the city of New Orleans. Two years ago, yes, we were that hotspot but we also proved to the nation that we could do what it takes to beat back COVID-19 and we stand above the nation in our people being vaccinated,” she said.

This is the sixth time the NCAA has chosen New Orleans to host the sporting event.

“There is no stopping us now,” said Cantrell.

“No other city, no other state has been able to host the event that many times and I think that say a lot about the state, it says a lot about our city,” said the mayor.

Kelly Schulz of New Orleans and Company, the leading tourism marketing organization in the city says tens of thousands are expected to come to the city for the series of games.

“It has millions of dollars of economic impact and really immeasurable impact, if you think about how many viewers are going to be watching these games all over the country and seeing New Orleans as one of the best host cities that there is for sporting events,” said Schulz.

And even before the Final Four, the carnival season that is underway is helping local hotels and restaurants that have suffered during the pandemic.

“We’re doing good, certainly we’re not back to those pre-pandemic levels but we do have many things to be proud of, of course, Mardi Gras is underway right now. We know for Mardi Gras the hotels are at 80% or higher occupancy for this coming weekend. We have the Final Four which would bring 70,000 college basketball fans to the city,” said Schulz.

FOX 8 asked the governor if this year’s Mardi Gras will be an indicator on how COVID spread is impacted when thousands of people are close together.

“So, you’re going to be able to see because it only takes a few days after an event before you either see a spike, in cases, or you don’t,” he said.

And Edwards, Cantrell, and Schulz also noted that the French Quarter Festival and the Jazz Fest are also returning this year.

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