HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - March Madness has arrived in Hartford.
The XL Center is hosting several NCAA men's basketball games starting on Thursday.
It's part of the Division I men's basketball tournament, and is expected to generate millions of dollars through the weekend.
Teams from across the country will face off between Thursday and Saturday.
Practices ahead of the NCAA tournament were wrapping up inside the XL Center on Wednesday, as fans from across the country made their way to downtown Hartford.
From near and far, fans flocked to Hartford to be part of the ‘madness.’
"I waited 21 years ago for this to happen again,” said Paul Wendrychowicz, of Wethersfield.
“I’ve never been to Connecticut before, so I was looking forward to it,” said Wally Foltz, who is a Purdue fan. "Love the city, and the venue is great, so we're pumped and we're excited. Hoping for a couple of victories.”
"It was going to be exciting no matter where it was, but it was close to home so that made it even more exciting,” said Vanessa Sheppard.
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March Madness gets business booming in Hartford
It's been 20 years since the tournament last had games in Hartford.
More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the games with even more filtering in and out of local businesses.
Businesses on Pratt Street should be bustling at noon on Thursday with a pop-up pub and live music.
Ahead of the tournament, Channel 3 spoke with the president and CEO of the Metro-Hartford Alliance. He said they're expecting more than a $7 million impact to the local economy by way of hotel stays, restaurants and shopping.
“It brings people to Hartford, it’s an opportunity to highlight the people who may have not thought to come to Hartford," said David Griggs, president and CEO, Hartford-Metro Alliance.
St. Patrick’s Day just happened, but at Vaughan’s Irish Public House in downtown Hartford, the party is still in full swing thanks to the tournament.
"Everybody has been talking about it for a long time so we're expecting to meet some new friends and see some old ones. We're just hugely excited that the tournament is downtown and that we get a chance to shine,” said Johnny Vaughan, owner of Vaughan’s.
One way for local restaurants and bars to stand out is by offering specials.
“$3 Coors Lights, come and get them, 16 ounces,” said Shaun Valedaserra, bartender at Dish Bar & Grill.
With deals like that, combined with many bars and restaurants opening earlier and closing later, it's no surprise the influx of out-of-towners has already been noticeable.
"We had a great crowd last night. There's a lot of people in town. We had a lot of people for dinner. Just coming into work this morning, it was great to see so many feet on the street,” Vaughan said.
"There's definitely an increase in volume downtown, and we had a few people here yesterday from Florida state, can definitely tell there's a buzz in and around downtown,” Valedaserra said.
There's also a pop-up brew pub that will canvass Pratt Street throughout the games. The all-day festival will feature beers from local breweries and a whole bunch of TVs to watch all the NCAA tournament games.