SPOKANE, Wash. --- While all the focus is on Gonzaga University’s basketball team right now, the team’s success is also brining the City of Spokane a lot of attention.
Gonzaga men’s basketball sure does draw a crowd. Each year they reach the NCAA tournament, the team’s notoriety grows.
As the Zags get ready to compete in their first NCAA Final Four, the program will only get more attention, boosting not only the school’s profile but Spokane’s as well.
"They're little ambassadors saying 'hey we're from Spokane.’ It's really the best public relations we could ever have without having to purchase it,” Spokane Sports Commission President Eric Sawyer said.
Sawyer said that free PR is not just for the University but it is promoting the entire community.
"We're sending out messages that we are a healthy community, we're a community maybe worth looking into to invest, relocate," Sawyer said.
Sawyer said this type of national attention could draw in younger residents and more jobs, specifically for millennials.
"So what this is saying is to a lot of us this might be a place I want to live, and what typically happens is they create jobs, they bring jobs, the jobs find them," Sawyer said.
Sawyer also said that a thriving sports market in general can contribute significantly to Spokane’s tax base.
When it comes to tourism, Sawyer said on average a visitor would spend up to 250 dollars a day.
What has the Final Four accomplished for other cities?
Last year’s tournament champs were Villanova University, a small private school similar in size to Gonzaga University.
After Villanova’s Final Four appearance, the school reported an estimated 6 million dollars worth of free publicity.
When it comes to Gonzaga University’s Final Four run, no matter what happens in the end, Sawyer believes the program will continue to influence our local economy.
“You don't even have to be a fan of Gonzaga basketball or sports at all to understand there's an economic development side to their story so they're out there showcasing our community, bringing attention to our market place," Sawyer said.
Gonzaga will play South Carolina at 3:09 p.m. Saturday on KREM 2.