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Hoops fans leave no room at any of the local inns

The ACC men's basketball tourney already is a smash with hoteliers.

By BRADY DENNIS
Published February 9, 2007


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TAMPA - The phones keep ringing at hotels throughout downtown Tampa. And the basketball fans on the other end, stuck in cold and snowy places to the north, keep hearing the same two words: sold out.

With the Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball tournament a month away, rooms for miles around the St. Pete Times Forum are gone or going fast.

"I've just been amazed," said Cyndi Layton, director of sales and marketing at the Westin on Harbour Island, where all 299 rooms are reserved.

"We've been sold out for a while. It's probably one of the more popular events the city has hosted, and I've been here nine years."

Those years included a Stanley Cup Finals, a Super Bowl and first and second round games of the NCAA hoops tournament.

The ACC long ago reserved about 3,500 area rooms for the 12 teams, alumni, officials, media and others associated with the tournament. Most are booked, and the ACC has requested more. That doesn't include hundreds of fans who have made reservations independently.

"We expected it to be big, and it's been big," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We expect downtown and West Shore to be at full capacity. Now that we're just four short weeks away, interest is peaking."

Such intense interest means spillover business for hotels that don't normally see reservations from the downtown and convention center crowd.

"We don't really get the overflow until it's a pretty big event," said Bryan Clancy, general manager at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Ybor City. He can tell this one is big: "We've been sold out for quite some time. We're turning a lot of people away."

The tournament could draw more than 25,000 people to Tampa and take up as many as 6,000 hotel rooms, estimates Bob Morrison, executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association. He likes the sound of that. But he also likes what it means for the city as a whole - more potential traffic for local businesses and tourist attractions.

At the Tampa Hyatt Regency, sales and marketing director Dave DiSalvo can barely contain his excitement. While the public might not yet notice the electricity surrounding the tournament, he said, downtown business owners surely do.

"It's a great piece of business for the city. It generates a lot of buzz," said DiSalvo.

How does he know? Even though the hotel is sold out, he said, the phones calls from North Carolina to Boston keep coming.

Fast Facts:

 

ACC Tournament

When: March 8-11.

Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa.

Tickets: No public sale. There hasn't been since 1966.

[Last modified February 9, 2007, 06:15:43]


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