Thousands of fans from across the country will be in the capital area this weekend for the 2021 NCAA Lacrosse Championship at Rentschler Field.
It's the time many players, coaches, fans, restaurants and really the entire state has waited for as the lacrosse tournament is set to begin.
"There's definitely a pent-up demand," said Bob Murdock, president of Connecticut's Convention & Sports Bureau. "I mean we've seen that across the board not just from the Lacrosse Nationals but for other sports.
This is the first big event since the state reopened and lifted COVID-19 restrictions, but before the all-clear was given there were a lot of questions surrounding the tournament due to the pandemic and risk of infection among fans.
"It went from no fans, to some fans, to you know fully capacity so you know it's definitely been a process," said Murdock.
In addition to the lacrosse championships in East Hartford, there are sporting events in Hartford, Windsor, Newington, Glastonbury and Uncasville on Memorial Day weekend. The Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau estimates $7.1 million in economic impact and $261,000 in Connecticut sales taxes.
"We seem to get a lot more overflow from the people coming into visiting the town which is a good thing for business," said Gary Delbon, owner of Giovanni’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Glastonbury. "Any lacrosse and basketball tournament, we seem to get a lot more overflow and it's good for us."
Jenna Beauregard and her friends traveled all the way from Hickory North Carolina to Connecticut to cheer on the Lenoir Rhyne Bears during the tournament.
"When you don't have sports, it feels like you're missing one of your important organs of the whole system," said Beauregard. "It's so exciting to be able to watch sports and see a team that has worked so hard to get to this point."
Lacrosse fans also told NBC Connecticut they're excited to see what the state has to offer and can't wait for the chance to cheer on their team.
"We're just kind of exploring and taking in some of the history and we're really going to try and find a local brewery," said Leah Clayton, who is from North Carolina.
"It's exciting and having the chance to cheer for our kids is really what it's all about," said Aaron Bessey, also from North Carolina.