Just days from now, Dayton, Ohio, will play host to the NCAA Tournament play-in games — or "First Four" — the biggest annual event on the town's calendar. With the hours and minutes ticking down, the finishing touches are being put on the preparation.
"It's basically like hosting an Olympics," said Dayton mayor Gary Leitzell. "If, you know, the Olympics were one one-thousandth of the size and instead of world-class athletes from all over the world, it had mediocre basketball players from mid-major conferences."
Dayton's six hotels are expected to swell with an additional 237 guests next week, a number including the players, coaches and staff members of the eight teams playing in the First Four.
"I didn't have to hire additional workers, no," said Mary James, manager of the Dayton Radisson. "But I did tell Cheryl, one of my maids, that I may need her to stay a half hour later one day next week. If it doesn't work with her schedule, though, we'll be fine."
Last year's play-in games brought Brigham Young, Cal, Iona, Lamar, Mississippi Valley State, South Florida, Vermont and Western Kentucky to Dayton.
"I didn't notice any additional business, per se, no," said Steven Hochkin, who owns a downtown Hardee's. "I thought I saw one guy in a jacket that said 'MVS' on it. That could have been a Mississippi Valley State fan, or it could have been someone who works for a company with MVS as its initials. Who knows. I think he ordered curly fries."
Mayor Leitzell said his town is prepared for any possible traffic snarls the play-in games could cause.
"I doubt we'll need it, but we do have a shuttle van we could run back and forth from the Radisson to the gym where the games are," he said. "But, again, it's unlikely we'll need it. We haven't in past years."