Why the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines is kind of a big deal.

Shout out to Des Moines Register for this fun .gif. http://goo.gl/M8yxKX

In November 2014, The Des Moines Register released an announcement that Des Moines landed the preliminary round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament…in 2016. At the time, that seemed so far away. Iowa was wrapping up a busy midterm election and already focused on who the next person would be to announce they were running for president.

Des Moines has gained major acknowledgement over the years, including recently receiving recognition from Business Insider as the top city for the middle class and the number 11 best place to live in the U.S. according to U.S. News. The NCAA tournament will only skyrocket Des Moines’ status as an amazing place to live, work, and play.

This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed my love for Des Moines and basketball in the form of an LS2group blog post, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for our community and its economy to have this event at our fingertips.

For a city with no major sports team, this will be an opportunity to showcase the community we all know and love from the view of sports, rather than just politics.

After attending a panel discussion led by the West Des Moines Chamber, featuring Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO, Greg Edwards, Iowa Event Center general manager, Chris Connolly, and KXNO Sports Fanatics Co-host, Ross Peterson, I now have an even better idea of the logistics behind getting the NCAA tournament here, and what they plan to do to make it a memorable experience for everyone involved.

After four bids, and hosting other events including NCAA wrestling and volleyball, Des Moines finally received the word that they would be hosting the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Edwards and Connolly both emphasized that they are not taking this opportunity for granted, and are going above and beyond to make it an exciting event, even if you don’t have tickets to the games! Many speculate that this will be by far the biggest event that Des Moines has seen. With eight teams selected to play in Des Moines, including blue bloods like Kansas, Kentucky, and Indiana, we can be sure to see a boost in the economy over the three to four day stretch.

Don’t have tickets to the games? No worries! There will be plenty of events in and around downtown Des Moines that you won’t want to miss out on.

Wednesday Open Practice

Watch teams prepare for Thursday’s first round games on Wednesday at open practice. It’s free to the public from 11:00 a.m. to 7:20 p.m.

Hoops and Hops on Cowles Commons

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and watch the NCAA First and Second Rounds at the Hoops and Hops Party Headquarters on Cowles Commons. Craft beer and food trucks? Count me in!

Fan Zone

Hop over to Hy-Vee Hall in between sessions to watch the other NCAA games and grab something to eat. This is a unique feature to the Des Moines hosting site and will provide an additional viewing area, which is free to the public.

Mickey’s Irish Pub St. Patrick’s Day Block Party

Thursday is St. Patrick’s Day after all! Watch the games from Mickey’s 40-foot outdoor HD TV screen while chowing down on green beer and eggs.

Hoping to snag some last-minute tickets? Check out the NCAA ticket exchange.

The Greater Des Moines Visitors Bureau, Iowa Event Center, and area businesses are working tirelessly to make sure guests and local residents have a seamless experience. Keep a look out for signage off I-235 for places to park, say hello to volunteers on the skywalks and in the hotels, and if you’re from the area, be sure to be friendly and welcoming to all those from out of town!

This is a great opportunity for us to showcase how hospitable the people are in Des Moines and show the NCAA that it’s a place worth returning to in the future.

Which event are you looking forward to the most during the NCAA tournament?