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March Madness Comes to Newark

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the more than 50,000 spectators expected in the city for the NCAA East Regional men's basketball tournament will be a boon to the Brick City's economy. 

"It just gives even more luster to the realities that are existing in the city of Newark," said Booker, a former college hoops player and basketball fan. "Not to mention the fact that it's going to bring millions of dollars to the city."

Booker estimated the event could add $15 million to Newark's economy: "It could go a lot higher than that, as we know people are going to be choosing not just to go to the games but to stay in the city for a lot of other events," he said.

The city formed a task force co-chaired by Booker and Governor Chris Christie to plan out events, including live music, interactive basketball games, a college fair for high school seniors and a wine and food tasting. Tickets to the actual basketball games, held Friday and Sunday, sold out in April 2010. But a Thursday practice session for all four teams is free and open to the public.

The city is deploying 1,000 volunteers to help with events. The Newark Police Department will have a mobile command center set up on Mulberry and Lafayette Streets throughout the weekend. Police officials said dozens of officers be posted both inside and outside the arena and along Ferry Street, the area between the Prudential Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Officers will also be escorting teams to and from the arena.

A department spokeswoman said authorities are still finalizing security measures, and she did not list any particular security concerns. She said the police department has allocated overtime funds for officers working long shifts throughout the weekend.

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