The Greater Phoenix Area has come together and rolled out the red carpet in hopes to receive a bid to host an upcoming Final Four. The NCAA Final Four site selection committee was in Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday to look at the Grand Canyon State as an option for the 2017, 2019, and 2020 Final Fours Championships.
Phoenix is one of eight finalists for to host the Final Four. The last time the Final Four was on the west coast was 1995 in Seattle. Other finalists are Indianapolis, Dallas, Minneapolis, New Orleans, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Atlanta.
A committee comprised of NCAA Tournament Vice President Dan Gavitt, Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis, Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir, and other high-ranking staff members toured various facilities around Phoenix, Tempe and Glendale.
A Quick Recap:
The day started with the committee touring the Sheraton, Hyatt, and Renaissance hotels in Downtown Phoenix. These locations would be proposed sites for team, fan, and NCAA official lodging during Final Four week.
The Phoenix Final Four Host Committee, which includes representation from Arizona State University, the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, and other Arizona tourism organizations, took the site committee to Tempe Beach Park. The park is proposed to serve as the venue for a free concert during Final Four week. The committee was greeted by the Sun Devil pep band, and the 942 Crew, an Arizona State basketball student fan group, when they arrived to the park.
The first day of the visit ended at Tempe Center for the Arts, where the committee had dinner with the likes of Team USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, and Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson among others.
The second day of the visit began with breakfast and a tour of the Phoenix Convention Center, which is the proposed location for various fan experience festivals and other seminars during the Final Four week. The committee was addressed by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who spoke to all of the amenities within a close proximity of the convention center.
The group then made it’s way down to Glendale to tour the Glendale Media Center and the Westgate Entertainment District. The media center is across the street from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the actual games would be played. The center could provide studios and a network operations for the broadcasting of those events, and it is within a close proximity of the game venue.
The trip concluded at University of Phoenix Stadium. The committee was taken through every aspect and amenity that could be utilized for the Final Four. Within the inner-workings of the stadium, there were ballrooms, locker rooms, and other amenities for potential player, media, and staff members mocked up, including potential sites for the media buffet, locker room layouts which were ironically for Michigan State and Stanford.
The committee left no stone unturned, asking the stadium personnel about sound systems, scoreboards, and even the height of the stage where press conferences would be held.
The stadium staff was able to hang their hat on their experience, and success, when putting on major past events at that venue including Fiesta Bowls, BCS National Championships, Super Bowls, and major concerts.
After a whirlwind set of tours that spanned less than 24 hours, the committee disappeared and returned to their respective universities as quickly as they appeared.
From what I heard, the host committee felt the trip was very productive. They were able to illustrate the necessary facilities and setup that would need to be utilized in each aspect of the Final Four week.
One of the biggest potential knocks to Phoenix was the vicinity of the stadium in Glendale to various fan experiences and lodging in Downtown Phoenix. Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association said that was addressed at dinner during the first night of the tours.
“We’re talking about 12 miles from (the Phoenix Convention Center) to the stadium,” Johnson said. “We’re going to be able to make sure that we have those facilities in place to get folks out there.”
Mayor Stanton believes having the various events spread out throughout the Valley is actually a positive when hosting such a major event. He referenced how the Super Bowl has events in Glendale, Scottsdale, and other areas of the Valley.
“It really is a regional event to host events of this magnitude,” Stanton said.
While Phoenix has the proper criteria to host the event according to site committee standards, Mayor Stanton claims Phoenix will also provide the “most family friendly experience” possible.
“We understand the responsibility it takes to host events like the one you are potentially offering our community,” Mayor Stanton said when addressing the committee. “We take that role very, very seriously. We have a track-record of success, and I think you’ll see in the coming years with the eyes of the world upon us, hosting events to the highest magnitude, that we will do an outstanding job in that regard.”
The committee should have it’s decision in November. When asked how Phoenix stacked up to the rest other potential sites, NCAA Tournament Vice President Dan Gavitt said, “Phoenix and Glendale is in a very good, competitive position for this bid.”