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NCAA basketball fans are in Milwaukee, downtown restaurant cooks hope they're ready

Fiserv Forum
Chuck Quirmbach
This week's NCAA regional games in Milwaukee will be played at the Fiserv Forum.

More than 15,000 college basketball fans from across the U.S. are expected to be in Milwaukee the next couple days for first and second round regional action in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

One reason the Fiserv Forum is expecting big crowds is that the University of Wisconsin is one of the eight schools competing here. If Badgers defeat the Colgate Raiders Friday night, Wisconsin will also play Sunday.

UW-Madison student Ben Francesconi is already in town and is excited about what the NCAA calls March Madness. "March Madness is the most fun event by far. There's nothing like it in the world. I mean, no other sporting event raises as much hype and as much energy. To be able to be here for it is I think an awesome experience," he says.

Francesconi says he's prepared to match that enthusiasm with money — spending not just on game tickets, but at local bars and restaurants. Sports Milwaukee, part of VISIT Milwaukee, says the regional basketball games are expected to have an estimated economic impact of $6.5 million.

The Milwaukee Brat House is one of the downtown establishments putting out the welcome mat. Cook Tyler Avendanu says last year's NBA playoffs involving the Milwaukee Bucks have prepared him to serve a lot of people in a hurry.

"It's organized chaos, I guess," he says, laughing. "But, we've got a strong team here, so we're also looking forward to it."

Avendanu says he's ready to focus on one type of food: "Mostly a lot of sausages here at the Brat House. I'm assuming a lot of people will be coming out for that. So, Milwaukee, yeah, brats."

COVID-19 prevented the NCAA tournament from being held two years ago. Last year, locations and crowds were cut back. This year, the NCAA has issued a COVID-19 guidance for teams that applies to masking, testing and exemptions.

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