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If there’s a big sporting event in town…

Then it must be time for a story about the economic impact of that big sporting event.

For a city that has hosted the Super Bowl, the World Series and NBA and MLB All-Star games in the past decade, the Final Four represents one more opportunity for a national showcase — and potential economic windfall.

Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects the area to see some $38 million in extra income this weekend thanks to what amounts to home games for the third-seeded Bears and their green-and-gold-clad fans.

“That’s very good, and we’re definitely pleased with that,” he said.

The real jackpot, however, awaits next spring. Ortale, who’ll be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for this year’s Final Four, anticipates 75,000-plus passing through the Houston turnstiles in 2011. Houston will again host the Final Four in 2016.

“We should at least double what we did in 2008 next year,” Ortale said.

Houston and Reliant Stadium last hosted an NCAA regional in 2008, employing the “mid-field” court configuration and elevated seating systems that now serve as the model for all Final Fours. The attendance then was similar to Friday’s.

“We were north of 38 (million dollars),” Ortale said. “We verified it through a third party, and we think it’s a conservative estimate. We prefer to err on the side of being conservative instead of overstating.”

At least this story addressed the question of what the impact was of a past event, rather than just giving us another projection about a current or future event. Given the financial situation we’re in, it would have been nice to know what effect on the city’s sales tax revenue is to be expected. Was there a noticeable bump in the amount of sales tax revenue Houston received from the state in 2008? If so, given that sales tax revenues have been depressed for months, do we expect the check for March of this year to show a similar or even greater increase? Seems to me that’s what really matters.

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