When the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament invades Albuquerque and the Pit next week, more than $800,000 in direct spending from an expected 3,500 attendees will benefit the coffers of area merchants including hotels and restaurants from participating teams, support staff and fans, according to local officials.

More than 2,500 hotel room nights are expected to be used in Albuquerque alone during the tournament, officials at the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau said. When economic doldrums have lingered for years, it's a much-needed shot in the arm for local merchants.

"It is extremely vital. Sports as a whole are very important to Albuquerque's merchants," said Dan Ballou, director, sports marketing, Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It is our hope that we get schools that travel extremely well, and that those fans get out and experience all that we have to offer. The entire package is beneficial to all aspects of local businesses in the hospitality industry."

The benefits don't stop there.

National exposure from on-air broadcasts as an NCAA tournament destination will benefit Albuquerque down the road for some time.

Promotions include:
• millions of brackets in front of sports fans around the country with Albuquerque listed as one of the locations
• national television coverage during a heavily followed sport
• on-air references to "Let's now go to Albuquerque and check in on this game that's happening now…"
• hotel rooms being filled by teams, support staff, families, fans and others

"Obviously there's some financial benefit to the Athletic Department, which helps the budget," said Greg Remington, UNM tournament manager. "Certainly, more than that is being able to showcase the Pit, our city and the state. We want them to enjoy what should be first rate basketball, but also, we hope a lot of them will return to our city and state and enjoy everything else we have to offer. Being on a national TV network for approximately 12-13 hours for two days is a huge benefit for all of us."

Ballou said it's hard to put an exact number on the economic benefits as a whole due to a number of multipliers, but needless to say, it is publicity money can't buy.

"Anytime Albuquerque is mentioned in the NCAA tournament is a positive situation for the destination," Ballou said. "Because of the NCAA's tight schedule going back and forth between games, there will be a lot of Albuquerque mentions throughout the second and third rounds. It is hard to put a value on that. Hopefully Albuquerque will see a lot of close, competitive games that go right down to the wire, and we are able to secure more look-ins from around the country. Each time that happens, millions of people are hearing our city's name."

The Duke City is no stranger to hosting big-time events or the NCAA tournament. It's the 10th time UNM has hosted part of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the last time coming in 2005. Since then, the Pit/Bob King Court underwent a $60 million renovation complete with a new exterior, concourse, restrooms, concessions and 40 suites and club-level seating. The renovation was completed prior to the 2010-11 season.

"Having the NCAA tournament in Albuquerque, signifies the importance of what we have done to update and modernize the Pit," UNM President David J. Schmidly said. "It is one of the showcase venues for college basketball, with a significant history. As a result, the tournament will bring great credit and national exposure to the University of New Mexico."

Single Session and All Session Tickets
There are two sessions, Round 2, on March 15 and one session, Round 3, on March 17. Times of games are still to be determined.

Single sessions are now on sale to the general public.
• Session 1 prices are $70-80
• Session 2 prices are $75-85
• Session 3 prices are $80-90

All-session tickets are also on sale.
• Prices range from $210-$240 and include three sessions (two games in each session, for a total of six games).

Second-Round Game Times – Thursday, March 15
Game No. 1 - Wisconsin vs. Montana, 12:10 p.m.
Game No. 2 - Vanderbilt vs. Harvard, 30 minutes following
Game No. 3 - Baylor vs. South Dakota State, 5:27 p.m.
Game No. 4 - UNLV vs. Colorado, 30 minutes following

** Round 3 – Saturday, March 17. Teams and game times to be determined.

To order all session tickets, call 925-5858, Mon.-Fri. - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. or visit: NCAA Men's Basketball Tickets.