LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- College basketball's crescendo began Sunday night when the NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled, and next week, downtown Louisville will see a flood of fans from across the country.
Justin Bensel, operations manager at Doc Crow's on West Main Street, called the days leading up to the NCAA Tournament "the calm before the storm," one that will bring thousands of fans from across the country to the Derby City.
"We're here on Whiskey Row, so get a lot of that action here" Bensel said Monday. "It really does kind of draw the crowds."
The first two games will be played next Friday, March 24, with third — the South Regional final — on Sunday, March 26, three days where downtown will see a lot of fans.
Restaurants have open arms, and Doc Crow's has been booked with reservations for months.
"I imagine there will be a lot of people here that don't event have a team, per se," Bensel said. "They just want to be a part of the game."
Bearno's Pizza — on Main Street within the KFC Yum! Center's shadow — is also getting ready as all hands will be on deck.
"I am not a basketball fan but I want to be here and work those days," said Chrissy Helstern, a manager at Bearno's. "Because there is such that electric feeling, and the city will feel alive, and we need to feel alive again."
But the spotlight will be shining brightly inside the Yum! Center. It has nothing booked in the two weeks leading up to the tournament, all the time needed to prepare.
"It is absolutely one of the most financially profitable events for us here at the arena and also just big for the city," said Sandra Moran, director of marketing for the KFC Yum! Center. "It brings in a large number of people from outside of Louisville."
Crews were laying carpet inside what is normally the Cardinals' practice gym Monday, preparing for all the media outlets that will be set up there.
"This building was actually built with the NCAA Tournament in mind," Moran said. "So we have the appropriate number of locker rooms. We have the appropriate space. We are the third-largest arena in the country, so they can sell a lot of tickets and have a lot of fans here."
The tournament is the unofficial kickoff to what those downtown call "The Season": two months where downtown emerges from the slower winter days.
"From now until Derby, we are ready to go," Helstern said.
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