It was just last week Wells Fargo Arena was packed with wrestling fans who added an estimated $15 million to the local economy.
Now, with a proven track record of hosting big events, many wonder what it will take for Des Moines to land the big one, NCAA men’s basketball.
The NCAA Wrestling Championships brought tens of thousands of wrestling fans and athletes to Des Moines. It also changed a lot of opinions about the city.
“I had people from Penn State stop me in the hallways of Wells Fargo or where ever I was wandering and say ‘gee you guys did a great job. We never thought Des Moines was such a great city’ and really turned a lot of people’s perspective on who we are and what we do here,” recounted Greg Edwards, the president and CEO of the Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau.
That change in perspective could be what it takes to bring one of the biggest tournaments to Des Moines, NCAA men’s basketball.
“We’re now regarded as a big city,” added Edwards, “We know how to do events.“
After the success of the wrestling tournament and other events like the Drake Relays, the USA track and field championships and the NCAA women’s basketball regionals, Edwards is optimistic about the city’s chances of landing men’s basketball.
But twice over the last eight years, Des Moines has been passed up.
“The first time around they said ‘Well it was the quality of some of the hotels’ and things like that. But since that time our hotels have been renovated. They’re in much better shape,” said Edwards. “Our whole infrastructure of our downtown has changed, you know, with more restaurants, more activities, the Science Center. Things like that all enhance the bid.”
The bid will continue to be enhanced.
Edwards says the number one thing the NCAA looks for is the student athlete experience.
For wrestlers, that meant being in Wells Fargo Arena and warming up at Hy-Vee Hall as well as having Fan Fest in the middle of all the action. A sold out crowd didn’t hurt either.
“We really have their attention now, they know Des Moines can pull off these major events. So we’re very optimistic in the future of men’s basketball.”
Edwards says the city will submit a bid for NCAA men’s basketball for 2016 to 2018 this fall.
He says by this time next year we should know if Des Moines will host a part of the tournament.
Some people are saying Des Moines will never host men’s basketball because Wells Fargo Arena doesn’t have enough seats to meet NCAA requirements.
Edwards says that’s just not true.
NCAA specs call for a little over 10,000 seats, Wells Fargo can do well over 15,000 for basketball.