NCAA preps for championship in Hoover

By Jonathan Hardison

HOOVER, AL (WBRC) - The love for watching or hosting sporting events is really paying off for the metro area's economy.

The latest example came Monday when NCAA officials toured Hoover's Regions Park to prepare for the college soccer championship in December.

All of those new rooms in this Highway 150 corridor are helping attract events like the soccer championship. And in turn, those events are attracting  more hotels.

"It's been great," said D'Ann Keller, Associate Director of Championships for the NCAA. "I've only been here a little over 12 hours and the city's been welcoming, Birmingham, Hoover, the support from the UAB, the folks at Bruno's sports, everything's been outstanding and you can't ask for better weather so we're hoping we have this weather in December as well."

The tournament hopes to attract a sell-out crowd of better than 13,000 fans who will have at least one free Saturday to explore the area. Hoover's hoping to lure them to the state's biggest mall and some of it's newest hotels.

"With the SEC Baseball Tournament and now hosting the NCAA's, it's gonna be a massive impact to December 2011. So it's a great way to end the year," said Melissa Burke, sales manager at the Embassy Suites in Hoover.

Hoover's Embassy Suites hasn't been open a full year, but the sales team already recognizes what a powerful 1-2 punch sports and shopping can be. "We have been happy, and we've seen increases, continued increases," Burke said. "Of course you have the downturns when there's nothing going on, but October/November with Alabama home games, along with the Galleria business for shopping at Christmas, so we've been very pleasantly surprised."

And if the NCAA is also pleasantly surprised in December?

"This is a test run," said UAB soccer coach Mike Getman. "We certainly hope this national championship will stay here past 1 year, that's yet to be determined, but that's something we would like. And yes, if we do well with it, there's a chance other national championships could come to the state as well."

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