San Antonio may have a Texas-sized problem on its hands.
The city is scheduled to host college basketball’s Final Four next year, but if state legislators pass a bill that would restrict access to bathrooms for the transgendered community, the NCAA could pull the plug on the climax of March Madness.
The NCAA is a dedicated anti-discrimination organization and has taken a hard line on the issue in the past. After North Carolina passed a similar measure restricting bathroom use last year, the association pulled first- and second-round games of this year’s tournament out of Greensboro, costing the city an estimated $14.5 million, according to the city’s visitors center.
San Antonio would have to contend with a much bigger loss in revenue because it would lose out on the biggest spectacle college basketball has to offer, as opposed to some early-round games. The city last hosted the Final Four in 2008, which brought an extra $47 million to the area.
Since then, major sporting events have grown exponentially in economic magnitude, making it all the more important to not let hosting opportunities slip by. San Antonio has planned on an entire weekend of events to accompany the games, which project to bring in 71,000 visitors from out of town. One study from the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee estimates a $135 million economic boost as a result of hosting the 2018 championship.
Beyond San Antonio, the bathroom-bill issue would have a much broader impact for Texas. In the wake of North Carolina’s bill, the NCAA pulled more than half a dozen other collegiate tournaments from the state. Texas would stand to suffer a similar fate.
North Carolina legislators, recognizing the economically self-destructive impact the bill has had both from the NCAA and from many other organizations that have scrapped plans within the state, voted for a partial repeal last week. Tournament games are again slated to take place in Greensboro next year, but its status as host is up in the air again as many see anything short of a full repeal of the state’s bill as not going far enough to eliminate discrimination.