Special to 1812Blockhouse

Get your brackets ready, throw on your favorite team’s gear, and pick the ideal spot to soak in the excitement of the next few weeks in Ohio! From the NCAA Tournament’s March Madness extravaganza to the long-held celebration of the beginning of the professional baseball season, ‘Ohio, The Heart of it All”  at the center of the action with events across the state. 

“For Ohio’s passionate sports fans, this is a magical time of year,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “From the electric atmosphere of college basketball tournaments to the thrill of opening day at the ballpark, these events are timeless traditions that unite our communities, ignite our passion, and create memories that will last a lifetime.” 

“Spring brings a fresh energy to Ohio, and few things are more energetic than packed rows of passionate sports fans on gameday,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, which oversees TourismOhio. “But these events aren’t just games — every game-winning home run or dramatic three-pointer fuels the economic engines that drive tourism, fill hotels, book up restaurants, and energize our communities.” 

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament will kick off at the University of Dayton’s UD Arena for the “First Four,” which consists of two games apiece March 19 and 20.  

Since the NCAA tournament expanded from 64 to 68 teams in 2011, Dayton has been the site of the First Four for all but two years. Last winter, more than 12,000 fans attended each session. 

According to the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau, the First Four had an estimated economic impact of approximately $5.9 million for the city of Dayton in 2023. UD Arena in Dayton has hosted more NCAA Tournament games than any other facility in the United States. 

“The NCAA First Four Tournament has a positive impact on the Greater Dayton community,” said Jacquelyn Powell, President & CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The University of Dayton Arena typically sells out for the game, local hotels host teams and traveling fans, restaurants and bars are filled with pre-game celebrators, as well as fans selecting these festive environments to watch the games. Retail outlets, from shops to gas stations, benefit from the influx of visitors and from locals who are out to watch the games and celebrate the kickoff to March Madness.” 

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament will also be making a stop in Ohio – for its Final Four. 

Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which is the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA and the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League, will play host to the Women’s Final Four on April 5 and 7.  

The women’s Final Four had an estimated economic impact of $22 million when it was held in Columbus in 2018, according to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. The only previous time the NCAA women’s tournament took place in Cleveland was in 2007, also at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, when the venue was known as Quicken Loans Arena. 

The coming weeks also mark the beginning of the professional baseball season for teams across the state. 

The Cincinnati Reds will begin its 22nd season at Great American Ball Park on March 28 against the Washington Nationals. The state’s other Major League Baseball team, the Cleveland Guardians, play its home opener April 8 against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. The venue that has housed the franchise since 1994. 

Ohio’s two Triple-A baseball teams are the Columbus Clippers and the Toledo Mud Hens from the International League. The Clippers are a Guardians affiliate who will play their home opener at 6:15 p.m. April 2 at Huntington Park against the Omaha Storm Chasers and the Mud Hens are a Detroit Tigers affiliate who will play their home opener at 4:05 p.m. March 29 at Fifth Third Field against the Nashville Sounds. 

The only Double-A team in Ohio is the Eastern League’s Akron RubberDucks, a Guardians affiliate which opens at 7:05 p.m. April 5 at Canal Park against the Altoona Curve. 

The Dayton Dragons, a Reds affiliate, and the Lake County Captains, a Guardians affiliate, are competing in the High-A Midwest League. The Dragons open at 7:05 p.m. April 5 at Day Air Ballpark against the Lancing Lugnuts, and the Captains open at 6:35 p.m. April 5 at Classic Park against the West Michigan Whitecaps. 

The Dragons and the Clippers were ranked second and third, respectively, among all Minor League teams in average attendance in 2023. 

To experience the sport from a different era, the Ohio History Connection is preparing for the coming season of “vintage baseball” where fans can see games played as it was in the 1860s. The home field for the Ohio Village Muffins is Muffins Meadow, and the club is planning a preseason seminar in the Ohio History Center Auditorium from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. April 6. 

To learn about various sports and recreational events happening this Spring in Ohio and year-round, visit #OhioTheHeartofitAll at Ohio.org

The Ohio Department of Development empowers communities to succeed by investing in Ohio’s people, places, and businesses. Learn more about our work at development.ohio.gov

Source: Ohio Department of Development

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