NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
March Madness is my favorite time of year. If you live on the West Coast, NCAA Division I men’s basketball games begin as early as 9 a.m. and then run throughout the entire first weekend of play.
Games and other festivities are being hosted at top event venues and downtown spaces, so even if you’re not a basketball fan, it’s worth noting these arenas and their nearby amenities. The upcoming Sweet Sixteen and Final Four are up next and we thought you’d enjoy a few facts about where the games will be taking place
March Madness Sweet Sixteen
KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky is host of the South Regional semifinal and final games. Miami vs. Villanova and Kansas vs. Maryland are on tap, with winners moving on to the regional final. Louisville’s arena opened in 2010, so it ranks as the newest of the Sweet Sixteen hosts. Fans have a blast attending games and events here because the arena is located downtown. It seats 20,000 for basketball and concerts. There’s 32,000 sq. ft. of event space, including three rooms with views of the Ohio River. KFC Yum! Center is adjacent to 85-acre Waterfront Park. By the way, this venue is very accustomed to hosting basketball games since it’s home to the University of Louisville men’s and women’s teams.
“The NCAA tournament brings plenty of excitement and economic activity to Louisville when it is hosted here,” says Karen Williams, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO. “Last year, we saw 1,700 fans at the Visitors Center alone, double the traffic of a typical March weekend. Our attractions, hotels and downtown restaurants benefit from this event and its primary location at the Yum Center.”
Honda Center in Anaheim, California, is host of the West Regional semifinals and final. Duke and Oregon meet in one semifinal, with Oklahoma and Texas A&M squaring off in the other tilt. Honda Center is home to the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League. It seats 18,336 for basketball and close to 19,000 for concerts. Since opening in 1993 as Anaheim Arena, it has hosted more than 3,500 events and an estimated 35 million guests. This is the seventh time the NCAA West Regional has been played at the venue.
United Center in Chicago is host of the Midwest Regional, featuring games between Iowa State and Virginia, and Gonzaga and Syracuse, with the winners squaring off in the regional final. United Center is home to the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks, which partnered up to build the arena that opened in 1994. The largest U.S. arena in size, it can seat 20,917 for basketball and accommodate up to 23,500 for concerts. It’s located in the Near West Side neighborhood.
Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia is host of the East Regional games, matching up Indiana vs. North Carolina and Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin. It’s also home to major professional sports teams, including the NBA’s 76ers and the NHL’s Flyers. Philadelphia boasts a unique sports district that fans enjoy. Nearby are Citizens Bank Park, where the MLB Phillies play, and Lincoln Financial Field, where the NFL Eagles play. Wells Fargo Center opened in 1996 and seats 19,500.
March Madness Final Four
The Final Four will be played April 2 and April 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Home to the NFL’s Texans, the stadium seats 75,000 for football, but will be reconfigured for the Final Four. Houston also hosted the Final Four in 2011.
The fan experiences will take place downtown at George R. Brown Convention Center and the adjacent 12-acre park. Most hotels are located in this area, so those lucky enough to get Final Four tickets will likely use the city’s state-of-the-art light-rail system to move from downtown to the stadium complex.
Not only is it prestigious for a city to host the Final Four, but tens of thousands of visitors are responsible for an estimated direct spend of about $150 million, according to Visit Houston.
“As Houston gears up to host the NCAA Final Four, we’re looking forward to welcoming thousands of fans to our city,” says Mike Waterman, president of Visit Houston. “The Final Four is a great American event that excites college basketball fans around the country. That means a huge spotlight on Houston as the host city, which in turn leads to strong media exposure and an economic impact of roughly $150 million. We’re pumped and we want everyone to come ready to play.”