Bring on the madness – Buffalo is ready.
Buffalo tourism officials said today that they have worked for months to nail down the logistics of moving thousands of fans to and from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games this week in First Niagara Center, into and out of restaurants between games and also toward the cultural institutions and other attractions while they’re here.
“We tweak it a little bit every time, and every year it gets a little bit better,” said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.
The six games scheduled for Thursday and Saturday mark the fifth time since 2000 the NCAA has chosen Buffalo as a tournament host.
New this year, about 100 volunteers will walk the streets before, after, and in between games carrying bright yellow “ask me” signs to help direct fans to restaurants, the arena and other places. It’s a tactic tourism folks in New York City employed during the Super Bowl. Volunteers will also hand out maps and brochures.
“Tweet teams” made up of about two dozen people will be scattered throughout the streets. They’ll post messages on the online social media site Twitter, using the hashtag “#BuffHoops. They will post alerts on how fast or slow the crowds are moving and also let visitors know which restaurants are full and which ones have tables available.
Each team will be led by sports management volunteers from Canisius College, St. John Fisher College, Niagara University and Daemen College.
The teams will also “commit random acts of kindness,” handing out gift cards to local restaurants and attractions.
Fewer fans than usual are expected to fly into Buffalo because nearly every team playing here comes from a driveable distance. Still, digital signage will greet incoming fans at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Digital signage at the Convention Center will welcome fans as well, and banner signs will adorn Main and Washington streets and other areas near First Niagara Center.
The city’s public works crews will pick up trash and make repairs. The Police Department will be heavily staffed and visible as well, keeping crowds safe, Mayor Byron Brown said.
“We’re all ready to roll,” Brown said.