The Zags received a warm welcome when they returned to campus Tuesday afternoon.
They didn’t win the championship, but their historic run was a big win for Spokane.
The Bulldogs have created national buzz and exposure for Spokane that the city is hoping to capitalize on.
“Even though they lost the national championship, it’s good to come out and support them,” said Zag fan John Wienclaw. “There’s always next year and you got to bet we are going to make it into the championship next year.”
What makes this team so special? Fans say it’s about the community.
“It’s just a family,” said April Wienclaw. “They’re a family. they are just an amazing dynamic little school, the little school that could, and all of us come and support them every year, and it’s amazing to be a part of it.”
The Wienclaw family, like many people in Spokane, have been fans of the Zags for decades. But for many other people without a connection to Spokane, this year may be the first time they’re really paying attention.
“I think that it’s already been a victory with all of the buildup to the Final Four has really put the spotlight on Spokane,” said Kate Hudson with Visit Spokane.
The further the Zags went in the tournament, the more people wanted to know about Gonzaga and Spokane.
“Google trends, if you go there, searches for Spokane are way up,” Hudson said. “They have spiked since Gonzaga made it into the Final Four.”
So city leaders want to capitalize on that momentum, and make sure people really do know what Spokane is all about.
“All of these audiences are seeing Spokane,” Hudson explained. “They’re seeing our amazing natural beauty, our beautiful downtown core, and we’re hoping that turns into a ripple effect for the city.”
And Visit Spokane hopes that will translate into more tourists, more people wanting to move here, and more meetings and conventions.
“It’s great for Visit Spokane and entities like Downtown Spokane Partnership and Greater Spokane Incorporated because it’s great for business,” she said, “and that’s what we’re hoping has staying power thanks to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.”
And if you missed the Zags arriving back in Spokane, you can still celebrate with them Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at a welcome home rally on Gonzaga’s campus.
Gonzaga says the “basketball team and coaches will be there to celebrate with the Spokane community. Fans are encouraged to wear red, white and blue and come to campus to welcome the team home.”