It appears the Louisville Cardinals were not the only winners at this year’s Final Four.
Officials on all fronts are praising Atlanta for a successful weekend. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the Final Four, the latest major event held in Atlanta, pumped more than $70 million dollars into the local economy.
“For five days, Atlanta was on the national and international stage,” Reed said Tuesday. “We once again proved our ability to manage and host world-class events. We came together as a city to show our best selves.”
Throughout the weekend, thousands of people packed downtown Atlanta, filling hotels, restaurants and Final Four-related events. Concerts at Centennial Olympic Park featuring Sting, Dave Matthews and Ludacris were so packed that Reed said the Atlanta Fire Department had to monitor the crowds.
Attendance for Saturday’s two games was more than 75,000. On Monday, more than 74,300 people, an NCAA record, watched Louisville beat Michigan for the national championship.
“The weekend was fantastic,” said John Yates, chairman of the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee for 2013 Final Four. “It exceeded all expectations on all fronts. It was a great way to showcase Atlanta to the country and the basketball world. I think we earned an A-plus. We cannot wait to host another big event. This was an Olympic-like atmosphere.”
MARTA officials said Tuesday that between Friday and Monday, the system saw a 78 percent jump in rail ridership. On Saturday alone, as the first set of games was being played, ridership spiked at 170 percent above average.
Hospitality leaders were exuberant about what they characterized as a flawless Final Four. Visitors fanned out across the city during the event, boosting attendance at attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. An estimated 100,000 poured into downtown daily.
Restaurateur Alan LeBlanc said business was so brisk he had to open a temporary second kitchen at his eatery, downtown’s Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery. He also added more chairs and hired extra staff to handle the crowds.
“It turned out to be a wonderful experience,” said LeBlanc, who also owns downtown’s White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails. “I wore out a pair of shoes going from one restaurant to the other trying to keep up.”
Several restaurants operated well beyond regular business hours for Monday’s final, including the Sun Dial Restaurant and View atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel and the popular sports bar Stats.
Hotel rooms were booked solid from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to the Perimeter area.
Hyatt Regency Atlanta marketing manager Walter Woods said this year’s business was stronger than the last time the city hosted the tournament in 2007. The hotel’s recently renovated lobby bar, Twenty-Two Storys, had record food sales Saturday.
“The entire city pulled together to ensure everything ran seamlessly and that our visitors felt welcome” said William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Staff writers Leon Stafford and Tim Tucker contributed to this article.