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OKLAHOMA CITY-With the 2007 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship tournament coming March 6 to 11, city officials are estimating the economic impact will be $35 million to $45 million. The early prediction is 40,000 people will flock to the courts at Ford Center and neighboring Cox Convention Center.

Ashlee Nichelson with Oklahoma City All-Sports Association says each team has a 25-room hotel block and can get as many as 20 more rooms. That plus the fans coming to root their teams on means a significant boost in occupancy for the metro’s 13,800 hotel and motel rooms. “All of our team hotels are sold out,” says Nichelson, whose organization is spearheading the event along with the Big 12.

Jeff Penner, executive director with the Greater Oklahoma City Hotel Association, says all Downtown hotels and lodgings in the Meridian and Northwest corridors are close to 100% occupied. In short, a strong market coupled with the tournament means “a displacement effect takes place,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “People who might normally come and stay in Downtown hotels during the week will stay elsewhere so we’re seeing just about every hotel room throughout the Oklahoma City metropolitan area going strong.”

Penner adds that the huge demand and low supply could mean hotels will be collecting their full rates. “You won’t see as many discounts given as usual, but you won’t see hotels rushing out and putting money on top of rack rates,” he says.

The city’s hotel market has been strong for the past two years. According PKF Hospitality Research, the OKC metro’s hotel occupancy was 70% at the end of 2006. The average daily room rate was $73.51.

On the transportation front, Amy Ford with the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority says the Downtown-Bricktown area has 20,000 parking spaces, with trolleys running between the Ford Center at 100 W. Reno Ave. and Cox Convention Center at 189 W. Sheridan Ave. as well as eateries and other attractions in the Downtown. To prevent freeway backups, she says certain exits will be blocked off. “The whole point is to encourage drivers to come in and park once,” she says.

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