NORFOLK-- Thousands of people are expected to converge on downtown Norfolk this week to watch men's and women's basketball teams compete at Scope Arena.

As the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference kicks off in Norfolk, the city is welcoming family, friends and fans to the area.

The NSU men's basketball team is looking to defend their 2012 title and the Lady Pirates of Hampton University look to four-peat.

Norfolk city spokeswoman Lori Crouch said local businesses will also see a boost in their economy.

'It's going to be great. Near or at-capacity for hotels, packed restaurants and people shopping,' said Crouch.

Specific numbers for the economic impact of hosting the MEAC tournament won't be out for about 45 days but Crouch said preliminary numbers look promising.

'Norfolk seems to gain quite a bit from having this tournament and we are pleased to welcome MEAC to town,' said Crouch.

Downtown businesses are bracing for the extra foot traffic. Erin Clark is the manager at Pounders Restaurant and said they have increased food orders and staff this week.

'We're excited that everyone is going to be here, excited for the extra business and to get the name out there, and just for Norfolk in general to have some new people and new faces downtown,' said Clark.

Norfolk has signed on to host the MEAC Tournament for the next three years. Locals hope it will showcase the city and get people to consider it as a destination location.

'You'd think the same people, the same fan base coming back three years in a row, hopefully they'll maybe make this a spot for themselves when there isn't a basketball tournament,' said Clark.

The MEAC Tournament runs until Saturday March 16, 2013.

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