DES MOINES, Iowa -- For 18 months, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) planned and prepared for this week.
Now that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is finally here, the bureau is making sure everyone visiting Des Moines has a great time inside and outside the arena.
CVB is working with Iowa State to paint the town blue.
Signs are going up at Wells Fargo Arena on Monday and around downtown skywalks and streets to welcome visitors and athletes to the city.
“We obviously have a fun draw, some fun teams for Des Moines. So this week we’re boots-on-the-ground,” said Katie Fencl, of CVB.
That includes delivering “tool kits” to local restaurants, bars and local attractions.
The kits include welcome signs, window clings, coasters, table tents and an insert with a list of events going on in town.
The goal is not only to help the restaurants be prepared for the increase in crowds but make sure the fans have plenty to do between games.
“Those are great. We’ll definitely give the buttons to our staff for a little extra flair and these packets to tell people where to go and what to do. That’s wonderful,” said Caely Roby, of Big City Burgers.
She's bringing in extra staff to help with the big crowds expected with the tournament in town.
"I hope they see that we do have more than a cornfield. We have a lot of local eateries and great people in our community, and we're all very warm and welcoming," Roby said.
And that's the goal -- to make Des Moines more than just an NCAA Tournament destination and a city people want to come back to.
“We want to make sure they have a great time in and outside the arena, so whether that’s restaurants, attractions … The winning teams have a down day on Friday so we hope they’re exploring our city and want to come back for a future NCAA event or a future vacation,” Fencl said.
For anyone without a ticket to one of the games, there is still a way you catch the action.
There will be open practices on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.
Each of the eight teams will practice for 40 minutes starting at noon. Here is the full schedule:
- 11 a.m. -- Doors open
- Noon -- UCONN
- 12:45 p.m. -- Austin Peay
- 1:30 p.m. -- Colorado
- 2:15 p.m. -- Kansas
- 4:25 p.m. -- Indiana
- 5:10 p.m. -- Kentucky
- 5:55 p.m. -- Chattanooga
- 6:40 p.m. -- Stoney Brook
Free parking is available at the Iowa Events Center-Wells Fargo Arena on Practice Day.