DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The First Four week kicked off Sunday with the Big Hoopla, bringing people into Dayton for community events and into Dayton businesses.
Milano’s on Brown Street was packed with University of Dayton Flyers fans Sunday, and assistant general manager Chad Koppin said he expects the momentum to continue through the month.
“We knew today was going to be busy, yesterday was busy, you know, we got the NCAA tournament coming up with the First Four over here next Tuesday and Wednesday,” Koppin said. “That’s going to bring in a lot of business for us.”
Dayton is hosting the First Four games once again this year, which has been held in Dayton for more than a decade.
“We notice every year how much more popular the first four games become, and they’re actually looked at now as the beginning of March Madness and the NCAA tournament,” Big Hoopla Chairman Terry Slaybaugh said. “We’re really proud of that. We you know, we take a lot of credit for being able to elevate elevate the games.”
Between the two days of games and the Big Hoopla events that kicked off the week on Sunday, like the Four Miler and STEM Challenge, Big Hoopla director Sarah Spees said it’s brought a lot of money into the Dayton region.
Since 2001, the NCAA basketball tournament has generated more than $80 million in direct economic impact, according to The Big Hoopla’s website.
Spees said the impact extends beyond a monetary amount because the Big Hoopla and First Four games also put a national spotlight on Dayton.
“The Air Force folks may come in for a couple years and then leave,” Spees said. “When they leave, they may go to Houston, or Alabama or New York, they’re going to talk about their experiences in Dayton, and those people that they talked to are going to say, ‘I had a job opportunity there, I should really look into that.’ So it really is an economic driver for our community.”
With teams and visitors from across the country expected in Dayton, Koppin said his staff is getting ready to welcome a crowd into the restaurant.
“We’re gearing up for that, and then the big NCAA tournament the next few weeks,” Koppin said.
The Big Hoopla also started to honor the region’s military members and has donated nearly 45,000 tickets to airmen, veterans and students since 2012.