Emory Bryan, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa is preparing for the NCAA tournament to tip-off in Tulsa. It starts Friday at the BOK Center.
There will be lot of folks in town for the first time, so there's a big effort to give them a good welcome.
When the fans arrive, a flood of volunteers will be ready to give them directions, answer questions and help them enjoy Tulsa. Starting right as visitors get off their planes.
The taxi stand at the airport is sometimes where visitors have their first personal encounter in Tulsa. The Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure visitors get a positive impression here, because cab drivers like Brian Gardner will be front line ambassadors for the city.
"That's what we're here for, to give a service for our community, the greater Tulsa area," said cab driver Brian Gardner.
The Chamber gave cab drivers new maps showing where everything is downtown - and how to get around on the shuttles. On the back is a listing of every nearby restaurant.
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The cab drivers are among 200 people who have taken special hospitality training for tournament visitors.
"And we want to remind people to show them the positive things about Tulsa," said John Roe, a downtown ambassador. "Tell them about the great things going on all over Tulsa - not just downtown - the fun things to do. They're here to have a great time and enjoy some basketball."
Tulsa's downtown ambassadors will wear blue shirts with "Tulsan" on the back and they'll be riding shuttles, ready to answer questions wherever visitors might be.
"We'll have people outside the BOK Center and at the headquarters hotel, the Hyatt Regency, and then we'll have some roaming, around the parking areas, the fan areas, just to be a friendly face one more time," Roe said.
Back the airport - where a fare to the BOK Center is about $25, cab drivers welcome a busy weekend - as they're welcoming an unusually large crowd of visitors.
"Picking up people at the airport, heading to the BOK Center, dropping them off, maybe pick somebody up there to take them to a venue, a restaurant, if not I'll come right back to the airport," cabbie Brian Gardner said.
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The BOK Center is ready, and downtown is getting ready for the fans. The Chamber hopes that all "Tulsans" are ready to talk up the city - and welcome the chance for a good impression.
On Tuesday night, 80 downtown ambassadors were to undergo training at the Hyatt.