With opening weekend in the books, Orlando hopes to host NCAA tourney again

By Andy Wontor, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017, 5:17 PM EDT

The Amway Center was home to thousands this weekend with fans coming in droves to catch some basketball action from their favorites in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. And Orlando couldn’t have gotten luckier, three of the eight teams in attendance, hailing from the Sunshine State. 

“We were thrilled with the choices of Florida, Florida State and Gulf Coast,” said Central Florida Sports Commission Interim President Jason Siegel. “That aided us in our efforts, but the fans came out and they came out in a big way and we were really pleased.”

Local teams or not, an average of over 15-thousand fans were present for Thursday’s games, 17-thousand for Saturday. It’s a huge win for Orlando, especially when it comes to future hosting gigs. “When you see sellout after sellout, that’s the magic. That’s really why we keep winning, and why they keep focusing on Orlando.”

The Central Florida Sports Commission submitting bids for 2019-2022 to host again, for either another NCAA opening weekend, or even the regional games of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Every event Orlando hosts, bolstering the city’s appearance as a sporting event destination.

“As a community, when we come together and host the Pro Bowl, Bowl football games, WrestleMania, all these terrific events, we are building this portfolio,” said Siegel. “We know we are a premiere destination for sporting events, and certainly these kind of marquee sporting events; so when you have that kind of support locally from our community, we know that we put ourselves in good shape for winning future bids.”

Come mid April, the Sports Commission will find out if it did enough to win the bid to host another weekend of basketball’s Big Dance.