MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis will not host part of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament next spring because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA announced Monday that it is moving the games that were to be played at 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. That includes the FedExForum in Memphis, which was scheduled to host the South Regional on March 26 and 28, 2021.
According to a news release, the NCAA and its Division I Men’s Basketball Committee have been working on figuring out “the most effective way to conduct a safe and healthy March Madness for all participants for the 2021 championship.”
The NCAA said during the discussions, it became apparent to the committee that conducting the championship at 13 sites around the country could spread COVID-19. Now the NCAA is looking at holding the entire 68-team tournament in one area.
It said its staff has been in preliminary talks with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to host the full event. Indianapolis was already slated to host the Men’s Final Four from April 3 through 5.
Tourism leaders in Memphis told FOX13 earlier this year they were counting on the tournament games for a boost to the local economy.
“It’s millions of dollars to the community at a time when we really need it obviously coming out of what we’ve been through this past and unfortunately it looks like it’s going to continue some time into 2021,” said Kevin Kane, Memphis Tourism President and CEO.
The city would have hosted a pair of Sweet 16 games and the South Region Final. Memphis will now not host the NCAA tournament until the 1st and 2nd rounds in 2024.
Kane said the tourism and hospitality industries make up 55-60,000 people and many of them work in restaurants.
“We haven’t regained our footing, and that would have been a huge shot in the arm for just about every restaurant in town,” said Ernie Mellor, President of the Memphis Restaurant Association.
Mellor said this is another big hit especially for downtown restaurants that have been hit the hardest.
“Downtown has suffered greatly during the pandemic because of the lack of working, everyone’s working at home as well as the lack of tourists,” said Mellor.
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