Starting Wednesday and continuing through Saturday night, hundreds and perhaps thousands of fans, families and officials will descend on Missoula for the combined men's and women's Big Sky Conference basketball tournaments.

Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, Patrick Barkey, said that people who attend sporting events out of state tend to be more affluent and able to travel, so they are likely to spend more money while they are in Missoula.

Barkey said the visitors will spend money on more than just accommodations and food, but also gasoline, auto care, health care and, of course, retail shopping.

He said the effect can be greater than that of a football game, which lasts only a few hours, since both the women's and men's tournaments will keep people here from Wednesday through Saturday night.

Barkey also said once first-time visitors experience Missoula, the impression is often planted to return or even retire here.

Barkey did not have access to the actual financial impact of the tournaments, but said the Missoula economy would be greatly impacted.

Bureau of Business and Economic Research Director Patrick Barkey