Big Changes to Downtown Des Moines Before NCAA Tournament Next Year

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  We are in the midst of the Boys State Basketball Tournament which brings in about 70,000 people throughout the week. Des Moines is finishing up the winter tournament season, but the city is far from done.

After Boys State Basketball we have about a two month break before Des Moines hosts the State Track and Field Championships over at Drake at the end of May.

But the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitor's Bureau said Des Moines is really gearing up for this time next year, when the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament returns to Wells Fargo Arena.

A lot has changed downtown since Des Moines hosted the NCAA Championships in 2016. The new Hy-Vee grocery store downtown has been added. The Hilton adds 330 hotel rooms downtown and will open this March 21st. And the new Fairfield hotel is expected to open around this time next year. Since 2016, Des Moines has added more than 1,500 individual hotel rooms. All of these additions exceed the specifications a city must meet in order to host a tournament.

"The size of the arena, how many hotel rooms. You’ve got to have so many quality hotel rooms, the teams, there will be eight teams that come to the tournament, and each team will stay in a different hotel. But each hotel has to be equal, they have to be full service hotels. So actually use hotels not only downtown but also out in the suburban areas as well," Catch Des Moines President and CEO Greg Edwards said.

Another change that people did not see last time are the sky walks that connect the Iowa Event Center to downtown.

“The last time the NCAA’s were here the sky walks were not open by the Iowa Event Center because they were doing construction on the new hotel. So the sky walks will now be open, really three miles of sky walks downtown so you can get to hotels, restaurants, shopping," Edwards said.