Not KU’s 80,000-plus strong alumni base in Kansas City. Nor K-State’s, and not Mizzou’s paltry 26,000 alums.
Nope, when it comes to propping up the Big 12 tourney (and fostering tourism) the undisputed champ is none other than lowly Iowa State.
“Oh, Iowa State’s the money,” says Stanford & Sons main man Craig Glazer. “Most people in Kansas City don’t know that. And Kansas losing will actually help local restaurants and bars, because otherwise KU fans would have stayed him and watched the championship game on TV.”
Forget about tourism from the other Big 12 teams.
“The tourism Kansas City gets from the Big 12 is because of Iowa State,” Glazer says. “And that’s the only reason the Big 12 is good for tourism here. Even when Iowa State’s not any good they are the biggest attending group from out of town. I would say if you add every other school’s fans up besides KU and K-State, Iowa State has more. And in a year like this where they have a good team, a lot more.
“Even in a bad year they bring a few thousand fans and they drink their asses off. We loved it when they used to come to Westport before the Power & Light opened. It used to be our biggest week of the year for most places overall and it probably still is.”
Westport Saloon owner Bill Nigro concurs.
“Because Iowa State was a finalist Wesport was packed this weekend,” Nigro says. “And Kelly’s had lines to get in virtually every day.”
“In Westport the biggest crowds are from Iowa State. I’d say, 40 percent of our Big 12 crowd is Iowa State. Followed by 25 percent that are KU fans and 15 percent that are Missouri fans, even though they are in the SEC now. K-State’s got maybe 5 percent and the rest are from all the other schools.
In other words, about 15 percent from all the Texas and Oklahoma schools.
Missing in these early crowd calculations: Wichita State.
Come the NCAA’s we’ll get a better idea of how many Shocker fans there are in KC.
You know, besides Westport Cafe owner Aaron Confessori.
“My favorite team in the NCAA tournament is Wichita State,” Nigro says. “Wichita State’s gonna win it all, buddy.”