Fans, businesses excited for Sweet 16 games in KC despite lack of local teams

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The Houston Cougars, Miami Hurricanes, Xavier Musketeers and Texas Longhorns will take the court in KCMO on Friday but, by Sunday night, only one of them will be left dancing.

“A lot of people that bought just didn’t get the teams they were hoping for,” said Jason Durbin. He is the vice president of tickets operations for Tickets for Less in Overland Park, Kansas.

Ticket prices for this year’s Sweet 16 games in Kansas City, Missouri, are pretty low right now.

“You are seeing two Sweet 16 games for like $35,” Durbin said.

Compare that to the Big 12 Tournament, where tickets that cost the least were in the $100s and $200s.

Durbin said the main reason for that is the bracket. Due to the NCAA’s selection process, it didn’t matter how KU, K-State or Mizzou did on the court; they weren’t going to be playing in KCMO for the Sweet 16.

“Kind of surprising that they didn’t try to put more of the local schools around,” Durbin said. “It’s a balance, you know? Because you want to get some of the local schools, but you don’t want to create an unfair advantage for a higher seed.”

Durbin said he still believes there will be a lot of fans downtown but a different kind. They’ll be those just watching for the love of the game.

Officials from the KC Sports Commission believe that will still bode well for the local economy.

“Seeing teams like Texas -- who has been to Kansas City -- their teams know us, they know our venues, they know the hotels. That’s great,” said Kathy Nelson, CEO and President of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit KC. “Then Houston -- which is an incoming Big 12 school now -- for them to get to experience what it’s like in a championship week is fantastic and, of course, all of the other fans coming in from out-of-state.”

That is music to the ears of those at Blue Sushi Sake Grill in the Power & Light District. They opened back in February and have been busy ever since, including during the Big 12 Tournament.

Brooke Carter, the assistant manager, said it was especially busy after the KU games let out.

“It was pretty immediate,” Carter recalled. “We are really close to T-Mobile Center now. Suddenly we were dead and, suddenly, we weren’t.”

Even though this time around there won’t be many Jayhawks, Tigers or Wildcat fans, Carter is hoping business will be just as strong.

“We make good sushi, so the more people we can get in to try it, the bigger our business grows,” Carter said.

There will be some local storylines, as Texas has power forward Christian Bishop from Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Houston will be joining the Big 12, so we’ll be seeing them a lot more in the coming years.