- Steven Matthews Staff Writer
Next week’s NCAA First Four will attract thousands of basketball fans to the area and generate more than $4 million in economic impact, according to local officials.
The eight teams that will be playing at the University of Dayton Arena won’t be revealed until Sunday night, but UD Arena staff are busy today preparing the venue for the four games set for March 15-16.
The First Four floor will be installed tonight as part of the three-day effort to convert the arena for NCAA tournament games, said Scott DeBolt, senior associate director of athletics and UD Arena director.
For NCAA tournament games, UD Arena’s seating capacity is 12,404 for the general public, compared to 13,455 for a regular-season game. Since UD Arena opened in 1969, Dayton has been in the NCAA’s top 35 in attendance every season.
“There’s a long, rich history of basketball, even way before UD Arena,” DeBolt said. “We’re proud to host the NCAA Tournament here.”
The NCAA tournament has kicked off at UD Arena since 2001, starting with the play-in game. The First Four, which debuted in 2011, will be played at UD Arena at least through 2018.
DeBolt said UD has put in a bid for the next four-year cycle, to host the First Four in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“UD Arena is a basketball venue, and we pride ourselves on hosting good competitions here,” DeBolt said.
Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau, said last year’s First Four had a $4.6 million economic impact.
“And that doesn’t include the kind of media exposure we also get and the national attention it brings to our community,” Powell said.
Powell said after the tournament bracket is unveiled Sunday night, the bureau will begin making preparations for the eight teams coming to Dayton.
“We want to make that welcome feel special,” Powell said. “A lot of communities would love to have this event. Dayton has been behind this from the beginning. UD does a tremendous job with this event.”
Open practices free to the public will be held March 14-15. Tickets to the First Four games are available at www.daytonhoopla.com/tickets.
The Big Hoopla also has a pair of events scheduled for Sunday, March 13: The Big Hoopla Four Miler and Fifth Annual Big Hoopla STEM Challenge. For more information, visit www.daytonhoopla.com.