SBD/March 22, 2011/Colleges

Tulsa's NCAA Games Draw Crowds To BOK Center; Reports On Other Host Sites

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament second- and third-round games at Tulsa’s BOK Center drew a total of 42,823 fans and “took two of the top 10 spots among the arena’s most attended single-events,” according to Matt Baker of TULSA WORLD. Sunday’s third-round games, which featured Arizona-Texas and Kansas-Illinois, drew an announced crowd of 15,839, making it the “sixth-most attended event since the arena opened in August 2008.” Friday’s late session “drew 14,353 spectators -- ninth-best in arena history” (TULSA WORLD, 3/21). This was the first time in 26 years Tulsa had hosted NCAA Tournament games, and in Tulsa, Dave Sittler wrote, “We don’t know when our town will again host March Madness. But Tulsans proved they could run a big-time event to match their first-class arena. … Hopefully, we won’t have to sit out too many Big Dances before the NCAA asks us if we’re willing to open our doors wide to host another portion of its premier event” (TULSA WORLD, 3/21). However, the WORLD's Baker today notes Tulsa "ranked seventh in attendance among the eight sites that hosted second- and third-round games," behind only Tucson's McHale Center. The BOK Center "filled 80 percent of the 17,839 seats" for the six games, with only Tucson and Tampa having a "greater percentage of empty seats." Tulsa Metro Chamber President & CEO Michael Neal: "We're going to have to sell more tickets next time" (TULSA WORLD, 3/22).

BOOST FROM TOBACCO ROAD: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg reported attendance for Sunday’s tournament games at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena “picked up” compared to Friday’s sessions, as 18,329 fans watched North Carolina-Washington and Duke-Michigan. UNC Charlotte AD Judy Rose, whose school served as host of the games, said that she was “encouraged by the crowds for Sunday’s games … after being disappointed by advance ticket sales.” She said NCAA reps at the games “gave glowing reviews.” Rose “expects to bid on landing future tournaments this summer” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/21). Also in Charlotte, Scott Fowler noted there were “about 1,500 more tickets sold for Sunday’s session compared to Friday’s,” when 16,852 fans attended the late session. However, it is a “stunner the whole weekend wasn’t a complete sellout with both North Carolina and Duke in the house” (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 3/20).

STRONG WALK-UPS IN TAMPA: Tampa Bay Sports Commissioner Exec Dir Rob Higgins said that a “strong walkup crowd bolstered attendance after the pace of ticket sales began to quicken on Friday” for games played at the St. Pete Times Forum. Saturday’s games, which featured Kentucky-West Virginia and Florida-UCLA, drew 17,771 fans, up from 14,835 and 15,504 for the two sessions Thursday. Higgins said that “determining the event’s success involves considering feedback from the NCAA, fans and teams.” However, he added that there is “reason to think Tampa could be in the running the next time the NCAA opens bidding on sites” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/20).

LOCAL DRAWING POWER: In DC, Stephen Whyno noted Verizon Center drew 18,684 fans for Saturday night’s games, which featured Butler-Pittsburgh and UConn-Cincinnati, and 17,706 for Thursday’s games. The arena “had the benefit of hosting four teams within driving distance plus some rabid fan bases” in Butler and UConn (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/21).

 
SECOND ROUND
THIRD ROUND
SITE
SESSION 1
SESSION 2
SESSION 1
TOTAL
Quicken Loans Arena
20,174
20,164
20,164
60,502
Pepsi Center
18,499
19,216
19,328
57,043
Verizon Center
17,578
17,706
18,684
53,968
United Center
17,352
17,369
18,146
52,867
Time Warner Cable Arena
16,829
16,852
18,329
52,010
St. Pete Times Forum
14,835
15,504
17,771
48,110
BOK Center
12,631
14,353
15,839
42,823
McKale Center
10,101
10,293
11,267
31,661
 

COULD TELEVISION ERODE CROWDS? In Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson wrote the NCAA “is daring folks to stay home” and not attend tournament games, with “every game being broadcast in its entirety for the first time.” There were some “atrocious attendance figures” during Thursday and Friday sessions, and going to games “has never been more of a sacrifice, both in terms of money and hassle, than it is now” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 3/19). In Charlotte, Tom Sorenson wrote fans "refused to fill" Time Warner Cable Arena despite the presence of local teams North Carolina and Duke. Sorenson: "Maybe fans ... have finally decided that it's easier to stay home and watch on TV. Maybe the phrase, 'There is no next best thing to being there' no longer applies" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 3/21).

AT LEAST ONE REGIONAL ALREADY SEEING SLOW SALES: In San Antonio, John Whisler reports the Southwest Regional at the Alamodome is featuring No. 1 seed Kansas and three double-digits seeds -- Florida State, VCU and Richmond -- and the "lower-profile field appears to be having an effect" on ticket sales. StubHub.com "was offering some tickets at more than 50 percent below face value -- $70 seats for $31 -- five days before the opening tip-off." San Antonio-based Best Tickets Owner Jerome Cohen "described the market as 'weak, very weak' for the Southwest Regional." Cohen: "They might be playing to half-empty stadiums." However, Univ. of Texas-San Antonio AD Lynn Hickey, whose school is serving as the host, was "optimistic the Friday and Sunday sessions would sell out." The Alamodome will be configured to seat 30,000 (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 3/22).
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