The city of Bellingham wasn't just seeing blue when Western Washington University hosted both a men's and a women's NCAA Division II West Regional last week - there was quite a bit of green, as well.
According to estimates in a WWU release, hosting both tournaments pumped an estimated $1 million into the local economy by drawing more than 2,500 fans to town over the course of the two tournaments, which were held at Sam Carver Gymnasium from March 15 through 19.
"I can't remember any Division II school hosting both men's and women's regionals the way we did, but it was a testament to not only the teams and coaches, but our staff and the city of Bellingham as well," WWU athletic director Lynda Goodrich said in the release. "The visitors had nothing but great things to say about our city and the hospitality shown them."
Of course, it was all the sweeter for the locals, considering the Vikings won titles in both regionals, sending the men's and women's teams on to their respective Elite Eights.
Both squads went on to win their national quarterfinal games earlier this week. The women have since lost in the semifinals to defending national runner-up Ashland on Wednesday, March 27, in San Antonio, Texas, while the defending national champion WWU men will face Drury in their national semifinal at 11:30 a.m. (PDT) on Saturday, March 30, at Louisville, Ky., in a game that will be televised by CBS Sports Network (live) and ROOT SPORTS (tape delayed at 6:30 p.m.).
During the concurrently running regionals a week earlier, more than 11,000 fans packed into Sam Carver Gymnasium. Many of them came to support schools from Hawaii (Chaminade), California (UC San Diego, Cal State Monterrey, Chico State, Academy of Art, Cal State San Bernardino and Cal Poly Pomona), Arizona (Grand Canyon), Idaho (Northwest Nazarene) and Utah (Dixie State).
Not only did the city house and feed almost 250 student athletes and coaches who participated in the games, but also the estimated 2,500 fans that came to support them.
"The Western men's and women's tournaments generated more than March Madness - they also generated much appreciated March revenues in hotel rooms, restaurants and businesses throughout Bellingham," president and CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism Loni Rahm said in the release. "The events provided our community with a great opportunity to share the excitement and extend our hospitality to alumni, family and fans."
The $1 million economic impact was arrived at by tallying the estimated number of visitors over the course of the tournaments and factoring in a per diem dining expense for each of those visitors. It did not factor in any boost to retail business.