Hoop Dreams

By Robert Rodriquez  ::  Photography courtesy of NCAA

Final Four expected to boost local economy, attract college basketball fans

It’s become the norm within Cordillera Ranch’s cozy confines to expect three things in the month of March.

The weather will be a wild roller coaster ride — one day it’s shorts weather, the next brings us frost delays or severe storms. Also, the spring dining menu will thoroughly test New Year’s resolutions or sacrifices for Lent.

Lastly, the sounds of ripped papers, moans and groans will echo across the community throughout the month, especially on the weekends. That is courtesy of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship — or “March Madness” as it’s more commonly known. Those sounds sure to be heard ‘round the Ranch will likely come from those who filled out the 68-team tournament brackets “for fun,” only to see their predictions go amiss.

Duke. Carolina. KU. Nova — those names will likely be scribbled on many brackets as the four remaining teams in the sudden-death tournament, or the “Final Four.” For San Antonio — the host city for this year’s Final Four and championship game — any four remaining team scenarios will be beneficial, as those rabid fanbases will flock to the Alamo City March 31-April 2.

According to a study by the SABER Research Institute, the 2018 Final Four projects to attract 71,000 out-of-town visitors and generate an economic impact of $185 million. Those numbers look mighty fine with the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee (SALOC), which is comprised of the City of San Antonio, San Antonio Sports and the Final Four host institution, the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Bringing an event like the Final Four is a tall order, and the SALOC did a remarkable job selling San Antonio for the 2018 event. Their pitch points included San Antonio’s Tricentennial celebration this year, the city’s improved airport and convention center, its bustling tourism industry, and significant improvements at the Final Four host site, the Alamodome.

A year ago, the venue completed a $60 million renovation project that included four new video walls and video ribbon boards around the upper deck, enhanced lighting and sound systems, a new media center, expansive concourse space with additional concession areas and dining options, and additional seats.

San Antonio last hosted the Final Four in 2008, and attendance for each of those games was just under 44,000. For the 2018 event, attendance is expected to reach close to 70,000.

“The event has grown tremendously and evolved a great deal over the past decade,” says Jenny Carnes, Executive Director of the 2018 San Antonio Local Organizing Committee. Another big difference is San Antonio. The event is different, but so is our city. Our visitors will be amazed at the differences [between the two Final Fours].”

According to SALOC, the projected $185 million impact from this year’s Final Four is an increase of $148 million over the last time San Antonio hosted the Final Four, reflecting the event’s growth. With the Alamo City being the focal point in sports that weekend, it’s no surprise that many top local companies are among the top supporters and contributors — H-E-B, C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc., Clear Channel Foundation, Valero Energy and Frost Bank, to name a few.

“The positive impact on our economy is a key driver behind our efforts to attract and host these kinds of events in San Antonio,” Pat Frost, Chairman of SALOC, said in a recent news release. “But we can’t forget about all the wonderful legacy programs and opportunities for the community that they bring as well.”

Final Four events kick off on Friday, March 30 at the Alamodome with the Reese’s Final Four Friday. The event is the final open practice for the teams, with free admission and parking for the public. The Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One occurs all weekend at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and is a sports wonderland of interactive games, special celebrity and athlete appearances, autograph signings and much more.

Also ongoing throughout the weekend and free to the public, the March Madness Music Festival will showcase top recording artists at the Hemisfair. The 2018 March Madness Music Festival lineup has not been set as of press time, but past artists have included Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, The Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney and Maroon 5.

Interested in volunteering? SALOC needs volunteers to help with a wide range of tasks from greeting fans at the airport to helping with events downtown and transporting VIPs. Volunteers need to pre-register at www.finalfoursanantonio.com, be at least 18 years of age, work a minimum of two four-hour shifts and attend a mandatory orientation.

“Volunteers play a critical role in making in our events a success and showcasing San Antonio,” Carnes says. “Working at NCAA Final Four events is lots of fun, highly rewarding and a great opportunity to be a part of the excitement.”

For more information about the NCAA Final Four Championship in San Antonio, visit www.ncaa.com/final-four.

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