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Organizers looking forward to a successful NCAA tournament in Portland

Sport Oregon helped secure the bid for the 2022 games, which is a welcome return to normal after the tournament was canceled in 2020.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The first round of the men's NCAA tournament kicks off March 17 at Moda Center. Thousands of people will descend upon the arena in Portland to root for their favorite teams or just to watch a NCAA tournament game the city hasn't hosted since 2019.

The 2022 tournament was awarded to the city in 2017. Organizers at that time were already looking forward to the future tournaments in 2019 and 2020, but the pandemic hit and things came to a crashing halt.

"I remember vividly because at the time, we were actually planning our women's final four bid. We were just starting that process," said Matt Reed, director of tourism for Sport Oregon. "The disappointing part about that is that 2019 was such a success."

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Sport Oregon is a Portland nonprofit that promotes sports in Oregon.

This year, things are looking much better. The mandates are lifted. There aren't any capacity limits. It's starting to feel more like what 2019 felt like: normal.

"We're crazy about our hoops here. I think that's going be amazing, plus St. Paddy's Day, plus the new lack of mandates. But the teams coming in really drive this," Reed said.

Sport Oregon secured more than 3,000 rooms that are booked just for the teams, NCAA officials, referees and the media. Then on top of that, will be the rooms booked by fans.

"From just a general tourism perspective, you're going to have a boatload of people from Boise coming in. The L.A. crowd coming in. You're going to have the Memphis crowd coming in," Reed said.

Not to mention the Gonzaga crowd coming from Spokane, which is only a 5-and-a-half hour drive from Portland. All those fans have to eat and sleep somewhere.

RELATED: Portland hotels are hoping for big crowds for NCAA tournament this week

More fans equals more money and future money, too.

"Folks that come here, especially the first time to visit, usually come back for a second visit," said Greg Astley with the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA). "It certainly gives us the opportunity to put a fresh face on it and to remind people what a special place it is."

The excitement brewing about these games should carry over into the next tournaments coming to Portland.

Moda Center will host the women's super regional in 2024 and the men's regional in 2026. Sport Oregon will also put in a bid to host the women's final four between 2027 and 2031.

Organizers are hoping that the success from the 2022 tournament shed a more positive light on the city to help secure future bids.

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