The Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments delivered a high-scoring week for bars, stores and vendors near the action at the Sprint Center and Municipal Auditorium.
And Friday was especially crazy, said basketball fans and store managers, when the University of Kansas men’s team played at 6:30 p.m. and the University of Missouri men at 9 p.m.
Crowds at Kansas City Live, the open pavilion at the Power & Light District, rivaled that of a busy bar, said Chris Cardetti, a Missouri fan who returned at midday Saturday for the finals.
“Shoulder to shoulder,” Cardetti said. “Hold your beer high and squeeze through.”
Bars also were packed early Saturday afternoon ahead of the finals between Missouri and Baylor University.
Chris and Sean Hagen snaked through the throng on their way to a drink and later planned to spend the night at a hotel. It had been a long drive for the brothers, both of whom went to Baylor in Waco, Texas, but now live in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“We’re spending money, pumping up the economy,” Chris Hagen said.
Iowan Todd Troutman missed the Cyclones game but came Saturday to watch the Big 12 men’s finals to celebrate his 50th birthday. He planned to cheer on Baylor.
Kansas State fan Kelli Cooper, enjoying lunch at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, planned to do likewise.
“We’re Baylor fans today,” she said.
Michael Childs said he was ready for a repeat of the heavy customer traffic that forced him to restock Charlie’s, the hot dog stand he manned at 13th Street and Grand Boulevard.
“An event like this, you have to stay on top of the ball,” Childs said.
Other shops — from the Sprint Store to Cosentino’s Market Downtown — also reported healthy business boosts. Downtown traffic benefited as well from the Greater Kansas City International Auto Show at Bartle Hall.
Business might have been even better, however, had Baylor not beaten Kansas.
Owners of Johnny’s Tavern across from the Sprint Center said it had a great week, but their six Johnny’s in Johnson County and two in Lawrence were expected to miss some of the business they would have gotten from a KU-populated finals. Kansas State’s early loss hurt, too.
“As long as the Missouri fans show up,” co-owner Nick McMillian said before Saturday’s game. “We’ll be sure we have the Missouri fight song on today.”
Big crowds also filled the Dubliner, which just opened across from the Sprint Center at the site of the former Raglan Road Irish Pub.
“Even though the games have been going on, it’s been jimmy-jam-packed,” said Leonard Thomas, who was working the cafe seating Saturday afternoon. “We’ve only been getting about two hours sleep.”