AT&T Stadium A Finalist To Host Another Final Four Despite Mixed Reviews For Basketball
AT&T Stadium will host its first NCAA men's basketball championship game tonight, and the venue is "one of eight finalists" to host the Final Four from '17-20, according to a front-page piece by Jeff Mosier of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. NCAA President Mark Emmert yesterday "enthusiastically praised" the facility at his State of the NCAA press conference. He said, "There’s no better stadium, probably, in the country than this one. If you’re going to have games like this in big stadiums, they’ve got to be really good facilities or it just doesn’t work. This one works pretty darn well." Mosier reports the '17-20 bids are "due to the NCAA next month, with site visits following through the summer and early fall." The bidders will "make their final pitches at the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee annual fall meeting in Indianapolis in early November." The 10-member committee will then "announce the locations for the men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours" later that month. AT&T Stadium is "competing against Atlanta, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Phoenix-Glendale, San Antonio and St. Louis" for the next round of championships. Only Phoenix has "had less Final Four experience than North Texas" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/7). In Phoenix, Paola Boivin notes the Final Four "has never been played in Arizona and hasn't been in the West" since '95, when Seattle's Kingdome hosted the event. Potential host cities "must satisfy a lengthy list of NCAA requirements, including the presence of an enclosed arena with at least 60,000 seats and adequate hotel space." Univ. of Phoenix Stadium is currently "the only facility west of San Antonio capable of meeting the minimum-seating threshold" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/7).
TOO BIG IN TEXAS? In Dallas, Brad Townsend noted Saturday's Final Four "energized a college basketball record crowd of 79,444" at AT&T Stadium, topping the previous record crowd of 78,129 set during a Kentucky-Michigan State game at Ford Field in '03. However, "perturbed members of the media" before Saturday's first game were "tweeting about up to two-hour waits for shuttle service from designated media hotels in Dallas to AT&T Stadium, as well as traffic backups once en route." Other reporters "questioned the practicality of having a basketball game in such a huge stadium, even with its giant video board" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/6). In San Antonio, Tim Griffin reports Emmert "gave playing the Final Four at AT&T Stadium a firm endorsement." The crowd for tonight's Kentucky-UConn championship "could be even bigger" than Saturday's record crowd (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/7). Emmert yesterday said of holding the event in stadiums, "The reality is that you can get 80,000 people in to watch a game, and that’s pretty exciting. There may be people that like to be in a tighter arena, but not the 60,000 that wouldn’t be there" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/7).
MONEY, IT'S A HIT: In N.Y., Juliet Macur wrote the atmosphere at AT&T Stadium, with "stands that splay way out from the court, was nothing like it was for the East Regional final, held last week" at MSG. While MSG "shook with excitement," the "sounds of the college bands and the cheers were lost inside this Grand Canyon." The games at AT&T Stadium to most fans "had virtually become a silent movie." The Final Four now "goes from one domed stadium to another," which is "all good if the NCAA wants to promote basketball as entertainment and pour money into its bank account." However, playing in stadiums is bad if the NCAA "wants to showcase the game and its student-athletes." The event "needs 60,000 seats or more to meet ticket demand." NCAA VP/Men's Basketball Dan Gavitt said, "The committee just feels like they want to make sure those that want to attend this event can attend it. ... I love basketball in an arena, but this has become the standard for this event. I do think fans like it. The feedback that we get from the players over the years is that the players like it, too" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/6). However, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes having the Final Four at "Jerry's Gilded Palace is not the greatest look for the NCAA, which is surrounded by charges that it has lost its soul in a money fog" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/7).
HOW'S THE VIEW UP THERE? Wisconsin F Frank Kaminsky said of playing in AT&T Stadium, "It kind of feels like we're outside to a point. If you look by means of the backboard, it seems like every little thing is so far away. It really is an insane venue. I feel it's too big, honestly." TNT’s Steve Kerr said, "Basketball was meant to be played in an arena, in a gym. Not in a football stadium" (DENVER POST, 4/6). In Dallas, Jon Machota wrote it is "not breaking news but AT&T Stadium is a terrible basketball venue." Fans in the upper bowl "are so far away from the action that they have to watch the majority of the game on the big screen" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/6). But in Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote under the header, "Jerry World Has Helped Re-Define What An OK Seat Is At A Sporting Event." Fans' expectations have "changed so much ... when we attend these massive events held in places such as Jerry World." They "don't expect a great seat any more" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/4). Also in Ft. Worth, Tim Madigan wrote under the header, "Distant Seats Are No Cause For Complaint At Final Four." The AT&T Stadium big screen, "larger than the court itself, loomed directly in front" of fans and "provided crisp images of drops of pregame player sweat" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/6).
LONE STAR LOGISTICS: In Dallas, Hallman & Formby wrote there were "few major security or transportation problems at the Final Four games in Arlington or events in downtown Dallas." Dallas Area Rapid Transit "proved its ability to be a viable regional transportation alternative during major events" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/6).