If all goes well for venues in Dallas-Fort Worth, it will not be long between Final Four visits from NCAA officials once the curtain drops on the 2014 men’s Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
NCAA officials announced Monday that D-FW venues are among 13 finalists under consideration to host both a men’s Final Four and a women’s Final Four during 2017-2020. Completed bids from the finalists are due in May, with an announcement of the winning venues expected in November.
AT&T Stadium in Arlington, site of the 2014 Final Four, is among eight venues vying for one of the men’s events. Other finalist cities, which must have an arena with a capacity of at least 60,000, include Atlanta, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Phoenix/Glendale, San Antonio and St. Louis.
AmericanAirlinesCenter in Dallas is one of seven finalists in the mix to land a women’s Final Four between 2017 and 2020. Other finalist cities, all with area capacities of 18,000 or higher, include Columbus (Ohio), Houston, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and TampaBay.
Preliminary round venues for the 2016-18 men’s basketball tournaments also will be announced in November. But the primary focus of organizers in D-FW is to land another Final Four, with AT&T Stadium expected to be among the favorites to land another men’s event based on record-setting ticket sales for the 2014 Final Four.
Already, more than 77,000 seats at the stadium have been sold for the April 5-7 event, with NCAA officials still deciding how many standing-room-only tickets will be sold to determine the final capacity.
In announcing Monday’s list of finalists, NCAA vice president for men’s basketball Dan Gavitt said he anticipates the bid process “to be competitive … We also know that based on what we have seen so far from these prospective hosts, we are going to have great Final Fours in the coming years.”
WakeForest athletic director Ron Wellman, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee, said officials easily could have crowds in excess of 80,000 for both the semifinals and the championship sessions of the 2014 Final Four. In a news conference last week in Arlington, Wellman made it clear that he considered AT&T Stadium a likely venue for future Final Fours for reasons other than the brisk sales of tickets to this year’s event.
“It’s a great market,” Wellman said. “It’s easily accessible. You’ve got a great venue in AT&T Stadium. It is an area that has successfully hosted these types of events in the past, so I think you’re going to see this market used an awful lot in the future by the NCAA for these types of events.”
_ Jimmy Burch