AAC Tournament brings big business to Beale

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis began hosting the American Athletic Conference Tournament Thursday, benefiting both the home team Memphis Tigers as well as businesses near FedExForum.

Tigers fans like William Bond made their way downtown Thursday and Friday.

“Graduated in ’75 when we were Memphis State, and we come to every tournament every year,” he said.

Bond enjoyed supporting his favorite local spots like Silky O’Sullivans on Beale Street.

“You go to the first game, and then when it’s over, you got a 30-minute break, so you go to the bar,” Bond said.

Silky’s manager Dennis Flanagan said this weekend will be one of his busiest of the year, not only because of the tournament, but also St. Patrick’s Day.

“Got four games yesterday, three games today, two games tomorrow, one Saturday,” Flanagan said. “Got the parade tomorrow, St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday. Our dance card is full this weekend.”

He said the best ingredient for success is Tigers winning in the tournament.

But there are thousands of other fans downtown hoping for a different outcome.

Misti and Dave Freerks drove nine hours from Iowa to cheer on their team, Wichita State.

“We’re big fans, Shocker fans,” Misti said. “WSU has a pretty good following wherever they play and a good fan base, so it’s fun.”

They’re staying in a local hotel and making the most of their long weekend in Memphis.

“Awesome, great place for it,” Misti said. “I wish it was here more often. There’s more entertainment like Beale Street to experience. The food is awesome. People are very nice.”

And if their team wins, there will be even more reason to celebrate.

The Silky’s manager said the only bigger weekend for him during the year is Music Fest during Memphis in May.

The tournament continues through Sunday afternoon with the championship game at 3:15 p.m.

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