The Women’s Final Four is another in a long line of events that keep local cash registers humming a sweet tune
By Tony Fay
Imagine a scene from everyone’s favorite movie, Casablanca. A crowded gathering place. Colorful characters. Exotic wardrobes. A room abuzz with a heady cocktail of languages and dialect.
Now, retool the setting from World War II French Morocco to the Dallas Omni Hotel circa 2016. And Humphrey Bogart? He’s out as head saloon-keeper, recast by the equally dashing and debonair Ed Netzhammer, Senior Vice President of Operations for Omni Hotels & Resorts.
“That’s what our hotel felt like during WWE WrestleMania – it was like being in a movie,” said Netzhammer. “It is without question the largest international crowd we’ve had in our hotel. It really made you understand the worldwide reach of the WWE. It was a fantastic weekend for us.”
While the NCAA Women’s Final Four may not “round up the usual suspects” of the annual WWE blowout, the event will bring tremendous economic impact to the North Texas region. Projections show up to 30,000 basketball die-hards making the pilgrimage to Dallas for the weekend. That’s a big win for the local hospitality industry.
“We’ll host one of the four teams, so our hotel will do very well,” said Netzhammer, who has worked in 22 markets across the U.S. and has overseen major properties in both Houston and New Orleans. “Dallas is the sport mecca – the best of any city in the U.S. It has done a great job of attracting events, big and small. That success is seen in our bottom line.”
The Omni Dallas opened in 2012, a short bounce pass into Dallas’ historic run of hosting mega-sporting events. “We weren’t open yet for the NBA All-Star Game in 2009 or Super Bowl in 2011, although our hotel played a key role in the NFL’s décor strategy. But we’ve played a leading role ever since,” he said, pointing to the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four, the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, Academy of Country Music Awards, WrestleMania and this year’s Women’s Final Four.
These dalliances in the national (and international) spotlight, mixed with the consistent performance of annual sports stalwarts like the Cotton Bowl Classic and the Heart of Dallas Bowl, have helped the hotel increase its Saturday night occupancy rate from 50-percent a few years back to better than 66-percent now. “There’s no question sports has played a large part in that growth,” he said. “The numbers speak for themselves.”
But it’s not just the hospitality industry that benefits. E.A. Teasley & Co. opened shop in Dallas in 1950 specializing in the creation of tents and truck covers. Fast forward to 1992, when Teasley’s grandson, Jeff, first provided “grand format” printing to the State Fair of Texas. Two years later, the Cotton Bowl Classic called, and Teasley cemented its reputation as the go-to firm for event signage.
Then the wave of big events hit North Texas.
Teasley’s business model went through the roof. “Since the Super Bowl was here, we’ve grown from 17 full-time staff members to 43,” Jeff Teasley said. “And our sales – they’ve grown by 300-percent.”
Teasley is now considered a national leader in its niche. “There are so many people that work on big events – vendors people would never even think of,” said Teasley. “Between the NCAA, sponsors, and others, we are probably working for 15 different companies in creating signage for the Women’s Final Four. It’s a major event and a lot of people will benefit from its impact.”
Charlie Green, owner of Olivella’s Neo Pizza, said he’s planning on staffing up for Women’s Final Four weekend. “The business from the games will be great, but what will really put it over the top will be the concerts at Tourney Town,” said Green, who opened his Victory Park location seven years ago. “Pat Green and Jennifer Nettles performing will really add to the crowds. These events bring lots of people, but more importantly, lots of people prepared to spend money.”
Netzhammer is quick to point out that it’s not just mega-events that bring dollars. “Each February the (Kay Bailey Hutchison) Convention Center hosts a cheer competition that brings 75,000 visitors. We have a youth volleyball tournament that turnout 68,000. These don’t have the same publicity value as say the Women’s Final Four, but they keep the drumbeat throughout the year. The Dallas Sports Commission has done a fabulous job of that.”
To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart memorable final line to Claude Rains on that misty Casablanca runway, in Dallas the partnership of sports and business is “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”