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Sold out in Fort Myers: Robust crowds for Tip-Off Classic

Thousands of basketball fans fill arena at FSW
Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 27, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Both games in Wednesday night's Tip-Off Classic are fully sold out. This means an economic win for us here in Southwest Florida.

A title game and third-place game is bringing in all the fans, from big brands like Wisconsin, SMU, West Virginia, and Virginia.

On Wednesday night, Wisconsin outlasted SMU 69-61, with a second-half comeback, to take the Beach Division trophy in front of a crowd that was about 90 percent Badger fans.

On Saturday, Marquette captured the women's division with a 74-58 win over Arkansas for the Shell Division, of larger programs.

Mark Starsiak is the tournament director.

"Locals and snowbirds alike are back and excited about events happening here. We're just really proud to be one of those events," he said.

Not even a 13-hour trip from Charlottesville, Virginia could stop the Mandichak family from seeing the Cavaliers versus Mountaineers.

"It was long, kids were great though, played a little Switch," Mark Mandichak said.

Given so much hotel space is still recovering from Ian, we asked where people are staying and what it was like finding a place. Many said Airbnb helped make their trips a success, but Stephen McCardell, here to see the Badgers play the SMU Mustangs, says his family is here for season.

"They're snowbirds and they have place here in Naples," he said.

Thousands of tickets were sold giving the Southwest Florida economy a welcome boost.

"When the hurricane happened, we were concerned that it [the game] might not happen," McCardell said.

However, the event was still on after fans waited a year for these games.

On Thanksgiving Day, it shifts to the women’s division. 8 team including Tennessee and Indiana airing on Fox 4. Or you can join in person.

"Get those steps in and come out after turkey instead of just sitting on the couch," Starsiak said.