RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Each year, the CAA men's basketball tournament draws thousands of fans to Richmond from up and down the east coast. The weekend always offers a big boost to the local economy.
Outside the Coliseum Friday, Ron Joseph with Strawberry Street Event Catering has set up shop. His tent is part of a new feature this year-- Venture Richmond's FanFest. Joseph hopes it's a profitable venture.
"I'm not sure... I believe it's the first time they've had some outdoor activity," said Joseph, "but it's supposed to be a pretty weekend, so we'll see."
A few blocks south, Broad Street is undergoing a transformation. The Hilton Garden Inn and Richmond Centerstage are the newest anchors of a revitalization effort here. The CAA tournament is supplying the area with plenty of visitors this weekend.
"We're housing 6 of the tournament teams here," said Pablo Zuniga, who manages T Miller's Sports Bar at the Marriott. "We also have a lot of the CAA staff staying here at the hotel.
Zuniga says the hotel and the bar are poised for a huge weekend.
"Here it's constant- teams are coming, teams are going, so it's a lot of activity for us," he said.
The tournament creates a ripple effect that reaches all over the Richmond region, according to Jack Berry, President of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It's not just a concentration downtown- some teams are staying away from the downtown to get away from the hoopla," Berry said.
He sums up the impact of the tournament weekend with one word.
"Huge," he said, adding "It's everything. It's over 5 million dollars of travel expenditures. It's national television on ESPN with the finals live on Monday night."
And the fans, like a mother and daughter from Wilmington, North Carolina, appreciate Richmond's efforts to welcome them. They stopped to talk as they headed in to catch the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks' noon game.
"Richmond has always been very nice to us. They have good restaurants. We always have a good time at the tournament," said Linda Clover, who was decked out in the trademark teal of her favorite school.