As Big Ten women's basketball teams prepare to vie for the conference championship in Hoffman Estates this week, the village's Sears Centre Arena is gearing up for what many hope is the clearest demonstration yet of what it can do for the area's economy.
Gregg Majewski, owner of Jerseys Pizza & Grill in Hoffman Estates, said he's hoping the event fulfills the kind of expectations the arena originally inspired among nearby businesses when it opened in 2006.
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"This is the first time that an event has been pushed throughout the area," Majewski said. "We're prepared to be full the whole week."
Though Jerseys is making a point of not supporting any individual team, customers who come in wearing their schools' colors will get 15 percent off their bills during the tournament, Majewski said.
But the true impact on businesses still isn't entirely clear because they haven't been able to learn how many tickets the Sears Centre has sold, he said.
"We're hoping for a ton," Majewski said.
Kristopher Gillis, operating partner of The Saddle Room, said the restaurant's proximity to the arena should mean more customers this week.
"For us, it's definitely going to affect us because it's right across the street," Gillis said. "People are not going to want to move their cars if they don't have to."
Not only has The Saddle Club made sure that the four-minute walk from the arena will be unimpeded by snow, but it also has geared up its staffing and supplies to the max for the first two days, with the ability to adapt accordingly for the following two days.
"It's always better to be overprepared," Gillis said. "We want to make it a good event. We're all here to make sure the Big Ten remembers this."
Gillis said the extra business he expects this week was something not anticipated when the restaurant opened. The concept of The Saddle Room was intended to make it a destination in itself and not reliant upon neighboring venues for business, he said.
The area's hotels also will benefit from the conference tourney. The only question is to what extent.
Linda Scheck, Hoffman Estates' tourism director, said her office coordinated with the Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau in Schaumburg and the Elgin Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to book 600 hotel rooms for the teams in five municipalities.
And these same hotels -- from Elk Grove Village to Elgin -- have put another 1,000 rooms on hold for families, friends and fans of the teams.
Scheck said Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod has reached out to the other towns' mayors to make sure each team receives a warm welcome from its host community upon check-in.
Melinda Garritano, sales manager for Woodfield Chicago Northwest, said the tournament offers some unprecedented opportunities for the region.
While the recent Ryder Cup golf tournament in Medinah was a bigger draw, that was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Big Ten tournament offers the possibility of regular repeat business, she said.
And not only from the Big Ten itself, but from other groups that will hear about how the tournament was handled, Garritano said.
"As far as the visibility, it's a big event," she said. "We're all very excited about this."
Officials say how the Sears Centre fares this week could play a role in whether it also hosts the 2015 tournament.
Scheck said the event fulfills the arena's potential, which was resurrected by Global Spectrum's takeover of its management a few years ago.
"I've been in tourism for 35 years," Scheck said. "I've seen the impact an arena can have."