Houston’s Final Four Hospitality

This weekend thousands of visitors will arrive in Houston for the Final Four NCAA basketball championship. The Final Four is the third largest sports event in the world and is projected to have a 100-million dollar impact on the local economy. A chunk of that money will be spent at local restaurants and bars — as Laurie Johnson reports.

The Washington Corridor is known for its active bar scene, trendy restaurants and ability to attract the young and the hip. Which makes it an ideal candidate as a fan zone for the Final Four.

Houston is setting up four fan zones in the city — Washington, Midtown, Downtown and the Galleria are all designated areas to gather with other fans to watch your favorite teams.

Michael Shine is president of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.

He says they decided to create the different zones so that local fans who don’t have tickets can still be involved in
the party atmosphere.

“If you’re a local resident and you’re a fan of let’s say Duke and Duke is in the Final Four, you’re not getting into that fan location where the Duke alums are — it’s just too busy. We wanted to make sure that all of our guests and residents could participate, so if you live in the Washington Corridor, or you live in the Galleria, or even Katy and you want to come see let’s say it may be Duke in the East, then you could come down here as an example and Sawyer Park is the fan gathering host right down the street for that.”

But Shine says there’s more to this weekend than just parties and game-watching. Houston is doing something no other city has done when hosting the Final Four.

“We wanted to do something for the people of Houston and the needs in Houston, so every one of those restaurants/hospitality venues has made a commitment to contribute to the Houston Food Bank in some way, either through a cash contribution of let’s say up to $1000.00 at the end of the week. Or a dollar or so for every certain dish that maybe that week they may create. As an example, Brinker-Chili’s group may say for every burger we sell we’re going to give a dollar to the food bank.”

In addition to cash donations, Shine says some restaurants will donate their extra food at the end of the day to local
shelters. It was an idea NCAA officials jumped on when the Houston committee presented it.

“That’s never been done with NCAA. They’ve never done that before and they’re thrilled that we’ve done that. So we’ve created some out of the box thinking and a new model for this great tournament.”

Shine says they hope touches like multiple fan zones and giving back to the community will set Houston apart in the
minds of NCAA organizers and out of towners.

“It brings dollars to our city, it spreads who we are, it creates additional economic impact and makes people understand how cool of a city we are. Although I do, we don’t just wear boots and cowboy hats and hunt deer, so to speak, as sometimes people think. We’re a very cosmopolitan city that has a great warmth and hospitality spirit and this gives people a chance to come.”

There are three games in the championship tournament at Reliant Stadium which begins April 1st.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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