Big 10 Women’s Tournament means tourists for Elgin
By Mike Danahey email@example.com March 1, 2013 10:30AM
The Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament takes place March 7 - 10 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. Nearby towns, including Elgin, are expecting hundreds of guests staying at their hotels and eating at their restaurants.
Updated: April 4, 2013 6:26AM
The Big 10 Women’s Basketball Tournament scheduled for March 7-10 at the Sears Centre will bring bucks along with Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, Boilermakers, Cornhuskers, Wildcats, Illini and other fans to Hoffman Estates and surrounding towns, including Elgin — and a field trip for Elgin School District U46 students.
Hoffman Estates director of tourism and business retention Linda Scheck said that the tournament has teams staying throughout the area, including at hotels in Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights and Hoffman Estates. So far, 600 rooms have been confirmed for teams, with another 1,000 blocked for fans, boosters and families throughout the region.
That includes at least one big booking in Elgin of 139 rooms, according to Cherie Murphy, assistant to the city manager for community engagement, and the city believes other reservations are soon to follow.
“Gift packets with coupons and ads for downtown Elgin restaurants will be given to each guest upon check-in,” Murphy said.
Using a special tournament ticket code found on posters and fliers found around town, Elgin residents can head online to www.chicagomarchison.com to pay $10 for each of their tickets (instead of $15) for each session. Of that $10, $2 will be donated back to the city’s Youth Scholarship Fund.
Thousands of ticket vouchers were provided to students at U46 schools, too, and about 3,000 U46 middle school students will attend an anti-bullying rally, then a tournament game.
The latter will come at a cost of $40,000, and according to Sears Centre general manager Ben Gibbs, that is being covered courtesy of fund-raising done by Hoffman Estates Village President Bill McLeod and the Northwest Suburban Sports Council.
Gibbs said a big tent will be set up for the talk, given by someone from Rachel’s Challenge, a program set up in honor of 17 year-old Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. U46 was chosen because of the district’s proximity to the arena and, unlike other area middle schools, because its testing schedule presented no conflicts with attending the events, Gibbs said.
Gibbs said the Sears Centre, which is owned by Hoffman Estates, can hold 8,900 spectators for basketball. Total attendance of 18,000 to 25,000 is anticipated for all the games held over the course of the tournament.
The tournament had been held in Indianapolis the previous decade, and the Sears Centre is set to host it for two more years. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I championship tournament. Currently, three of the conference’s 12 squads are ranked in the Top 25: Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue.
To assist visitors, “We have created welcome gift bags for the coaches and athletic directors that are specific to each host community,” Scheck said. “We encouraged each host community to celebrate their teams and guests by providing local information and special offers from a concierge desk that can direct the guest to local attractions. The arena has provided door clings and key cards to be sure each team receives a warm welcome.”
Local officials are hoping the effort will translate into other events and further tourism to the area, as well as money for local businesses. No one offered an estimate of how much cash related to the tournament will be generated, with Gibbs taking a wait and see approach to attaching numbers.
Still, at Elgin’s City Council meeting Wednesday night, Mayor Dave Kaptain noted the event as the most recent example of the city working on projects with its eastern neighbor and the value of building the relationship the last few years.
Other projects have included the 4th of July fireworks and festival at Sears Centre, various interdepartmental efforts, and the development of two parks with Hoffman Estates that Kaptain said has saved the city tens of thousands of dollars in creating needed recreation spaces.