Twin Cities packed for "State Weekend"

By WEEK Producer

February 23, 2013 Updated Feb 23, 2013 at 11:41 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill -- Traffic was busier than ever in the twin cities as they hosted two high school state tournaments on the same weekend.

Residents traveled from all over Illinois to see team wrestling finals, girls basketball finals, or both, all within three miles from each other.

For local businesses, it's a good way to get their name out to cities across the state.

"We do bring in a lot of people from out of town for these things, and especially for the tournaments," said John Koch, Lucca Grill Store Manager. "You get a perpetual thing when the same schools make it to the basketball tournament every year. They come and they remember you. Then they come back other times like if they have to come to Bloomington for business, or they are coming to ISU to look at schools."

Shelly Defauw's family made the trip from Geneseo to watch her son compete in the state wrestling competition.

For lunch, they ate at Lucca Grill, like many other visitors.

"We actually had to skip breakfast because we left about six o'clock this morning," said Shelly Defauw, a Geneseo resident. "Where I work they told me if I go to Bloomington, the place to eat is Lucca, so we looked it up. We were really close so we came over."

Manager of Lucca Grill, John Koch, says the tournaments are making an impact, with highly booked reservations throughout the whole weekend.

Koch says it is somewhat of a challenge with only one pizza oven.

But both restaurants and hotels are prepared to accommodate the large numbers.

"Local hotels like the Marriott also benefit from the Finals competitions," said Koch. "So much, that it may be hard to find a room in Bloomington-Normal when trying to book last minute reservations."

The Marriott did have some rooms available, but others are completely sold out.

With business continuing to boom throughout "State Weekend," owners hope to blow out the competition and leave a lasting impression on new customers every year.