St. Louis will be buzzing with upwards of 100,000 basketball fans by this time next week. The Gateway City will be hosting its first NCAA men’s Final Four for the first time since 1978. Doug Elgin, who is the commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference which is hosting the event, along with Saint Louis University, St. Louis Sports Commission and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, says this will be bigger than the 1904 World’s Fair, Pope John Paul’s visit in 1999, any of the World Series the town has hosted and any other event in the city’s history.

“No event can come close to matching what this event will have on St. Louis and the region in terms of the economic impact, the number of visitors and the national and international exposure that’ll come out of this,” Elgin said.

So will St. Louis be ready for an estimated 75-to-100,000 out-of-town visitors? Those folks will need a place to stay, a place to eat and a place to entertain themselves while not watching basketball games. While there’s no way to tell until the fans arrive in about a week, the town has had some experience at hosting NCAA basketball. St. Louis has hosted as a first and second round or regional site six times since 1993. This is nothing new, but Elgin knows that the Final Four is a completely different ball game.

“When St. Louis was awarded the Final Four back in the summer of 1998, one of our local media people asked an NCAA official, how he would compare a regional to a final four. He laughed and he said, ‘It’s like comparing a minnow to a whale.’ I remembered the comment, I can relate to it now. There is no comparison.”

The economic impact is expected to be quite profitable for the city. Elgin estimates that the 2005 Final Four will bring in around $75-million in extra revenue. The semifinal games will be at the Dome on Saturday April 2 and the national championship on Monday April 4.