INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - While the NCAA basketball spotlight is shining on Butler tonight, on Tuesday another team from Indiana will take center stage.
Notre Dame and Texas A&M will face off Tuesday for the NCAA women's national championship title, but Indianapolis, host to the women's tournament, is a winner before the game even starts.
Conseco Fieldhouse is decked out and ready for the thousands of fans who will be cheering from the stands Tuesday. And the draw of the big game has kept focus on the host city, and has kept fans here longer, too.
At the JW Marriott hotel, where the Notre Dame women's team has set up its headquarters, people who might have checked out after Sunday night's Final Four games are sticking around. Sherri Haigh, who played for Notre Dame in the early ‘90s is one of those staying in town.
"I think it's fabulous for the state of Indiana." she said. "It would be great to see them win, and Butler. I'm sure all the Indiana fans would be ecstatic."
And happy fans are fans that spend money.
Charles Bonaudi said his T-shirt stand inside the hotel the Fighting Irish are calling home during the tourney did $7,000 in business Sunday, compared to $1,000 the day before.
"They like the leprechaun with the fists on it. And that's pretty much what we sell the most of," he said.
While the women's Final Four doesn't get the publicity of the men's game, its economic impact continues to grow. John Dedman follows the numbers as part of the Indiana Sports Corp.
"The projections were anywhere from $17-$20 million of visitor spending," he said.
Add a Hoosier team into the championship mix, and it's icing on the cake.
But there's a price to pay for popularity, as Mark Gilby found out at the Conseco Fieldhouse box office.
"My sister calls me up - she's a Notre Dame grad - she calls me up and wants me to get some tickets for the game, and then I found out they are $87 apiece," he said.
For Tuesday's game, seats are $87.50 and up. But it's not the money that bothers Gary Freeman, who also wants to buy tickets to Tuesday night's championship game.
"I want to sit close to the floor. And I don't mind paying more money if I could just get closer to the floor," he said.
But he can't. Tickets are scarce, and all that's left are the nose-bleed seats.
Just the way the city wants it.
If you want to gear up for the women's championship game Tuesday, there's a rally planned. Notre Dame fans are gathering from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ram restaurant downtown. The game starts at 8:30.
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