Big Dance could bring in big bucks for U

Depending on how well the University runs the tournament, it could gain up to $400,000.

As the Gopher menâÄôs basketball team continues to fight for their Big Dance lives, the University of Minnesota hopes to benefit from March Madness regardless of the teamâÄôs performance. The University will host the first and second rounds of the 2009 NCAA tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, an event that could bring in up to $400,000 for the University athletics department. âÄúWe are expecting this menâÄôs first and second round honorarium to be in the $400,000 range, which is an important part of our budget especially in tough economic times,âÄù Associate Athletics Director Marc Ryan said. Ryan said host cities receive an honorarium from the NCAA, which gives money based on the environment the host university provides. The amount of money the university receives ranges anywhere from 0 to 10 percent of the NCAAâÄôs revenue from ticket sales during the tournament. âÄúYou just make sure your IâÄôs are dotted and TâÄôs are crossed and you conduct the championship in a first class manner,âÄù Ryan said. When the University hosted the 2006 menâÄôs basketball tournament regional round, the athletic department received about $225,000 in honorarium and over $70,000 from suite sales at the Metrodome, something they will be selling again this time around. Ryan said the Gophers do not need to be in town for the basketball tournament to draw a crowd, but the teams that come to Minneapolis will play a role in how much the University will receive. Dennis Alfton, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission director of operations, said ticket sales did not meet expectations in 2006 when the menâÄôs regional round of the tournament came to the Metrodome. With the basketball court in the home plate corner of the stadium and temporary bleachers on one side of the floor, the Metrodome can hold 30,000 fans, Alfton said, but ticket sales were only in the low 20,000s in 2006. Alfton said the problem came because the schools: Boston College, Georgetown University, Villanova University and the University of Florida, werenâÄôt within driving distance for most. âÄúSome teams travel more fans than others, and we want to sell a lot of tickets and have a great atmosphere,âÄù Ryan said. âÄúThatâÄôs important at the end of the day on the bottom line, too.âÄù While the NCAA will not send the Gophers to the Metrodome if they play in the tournament, Alfton said their improvement could turn into higher sales than 2006. âÄúI think the success of the menâÄôs basketball team this year has helped generate interest too,âÄù Alfton said. âÄúI think back in âÄô06 the team was not doing as well, but I think thatâÄôs been very good here for basketball in Minnesota.âÄù Although the athletics department did put $400,000 into their budget, Athletics Director Joel Maturi said there is no guarantee that it will receive the money. Maturi said menâÄôs basketball offers the chance to receive a larger honorarium than any other NCAA championship event, but after seeing some schools receive nothing for hosting hockey tournaments, he understands there is no guarantee. The NCAA will allocate money to the University based on a variety of criteria, such as if there are enough hotel rooms for teams, if the team bands are located in the right place in the stadium and if tickets are distributed correctly, Maturi said. Many of the athletics department employees are putting in extra hours preparing to welcome the tournament to the community and the University has already spent thousands of dollars in preparations, Maturi said. With the projected $40 million impact the tournament brings to community through tourism and traffic, Ryan said bringing the tournament to town also helps the University maintain its status within the community. Before the end of 2013, the University will host 18 different NCAA championships, an effort that Ryan said is being noticed. âÄúItâÄôs an opportunity to showcase our University, our facilities, and our community,âÄù Ryan said.