POSTED: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 12:12am
UPDATED: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 7:39am
(El Paso) — As the UTEP Miner men's basketball team stays busy serving up practice three-point shots ahead of next month's Conference USA tournament, Ed Davis and his team at the Nuovo Cappetto Italian restaurant stay busy serving up wine and pasta.
By all accounts, things will only get busier for the Kern Place eatery once the C-USA tournament rolls into town on March 11, bringing 31 men's and women's basketball teams and, Davis hopes, thousands of hungry fans.
"If we could have (the tournament) here every year the way they had it in Memphis every year, that would be the greatest thing in the world," he told NewsChannel 9.
Organizers have estimated the week-long tournament - which will take place at UTEP's Don Haskins Center and Memorial Gym - will bring $3.5 million in economic impact to El Paso.
Aaron Means, general manager of nearby Mesa Street Grill, said he noticed a considerable spike in business the last time El Paso hosted the tournament in 2011.
"For businesses like me, it helps," he said. "I think it shows the rest of the world the good side of El Paso."
Organizers, including the City of El Paso, have also banked on the lure of the Sun City's "good side." If the big crowds never materialize and the tournament fails to bring in at least $500,000 in revenue, the City could be forced to make up a portion of the difference.
Per a prior tournament agreement, the El Paso Sports Commission, which gets its funding from the County of El Paso's hotel occupancy tax, would cover the initial $50,000 of any revenue shortfall while the rest would be split between the County and the City.
At Tuesday's City Council Meeting, Sports Commission CEO Brian Kennedy informed a curious El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser that the Commission would also cover any shortfalls on the County's end.
Kennedy, confident that the tournament will reach its revenue goals, then extended the same offer to the City.
After discussion, the council ultimately voted 7-0 to move forward with the tournament minus any financial aid from the Sports Commission.
Kennedy later told NewsChannel 9 his confidence is boosted by favorable ticket sales.
"(They) are going great," he said. "We're a little ahead of where we were the last time Conference USA was here, so we're excited."