FORT WORTH — Coming off its successful broadcast of Super Bowl XLV programs from Sundance Square two years ago, ESPN will return to downtown Fort Worth during the 2014 NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in April.Some 90,000 people are expected for the semifinals and championship game of the mens collegiate basketball tournament at AT&T Stadium in Arlington next spring. And much like when the Super Bowl was held at what was then called Cowboys Stadium, Sundance Square said it expects to draw thousands of fans and area residents to its new public plaza for ESPN telecasts from April 2-7. Johnny Campbell, Sundance Squares president and CEO, said the downtown entertainment district is beyond excited to have ESPN back, describing the network as a great partner during Super Bowl XLV and after. ESPN has been a technical adviser to Sundance Square in recent months as it designed the new plaza. Weve been cultivating a relationship all along, Campbell said. This should be one in a sequence of big events.The stadium hasnt landed another Super Bowl, but it has been awarded the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game in 2015.The citys cooperation with ESPN during the Super Bowl has paid and continues to pay dividends, Campbell said.Campbell said Sundance has not been given a broadcast schedule for the tournament and likely wont get one until just before the tournament starts. ESPN will begin building a set for its studio coverage on March 31.The ESPN broadcasts will likely be the first national showcase of Sundance Squares new plaza. Campbell said he hopes the set will include many of the plazas features, including the interactive fountains, four huge umbrellas and lighting. ESPN broadcast more than 110 hours of live television and radio coverage from Sundance Square in the week leading up to the Super Bowl in February 2011, often using the widely-recognized Chisholm Trail mural on the historic Jett Building as a backdrop. Thousands of North Texans turned out to see the broadcasts and personalities, despite an ice storm and frigid temperatures early in the week.Sundance Square shops and restaurants reported record sales for the week.Lee Fitting, ESPNs senior coordinating producer, said Sundance Square was a welcoming location for the set and crew.The fan turnout and engagement will make for an energetic and enthusiastic few days, especially with the new plaza as our backdrop, Fitting said in a statement.The new one-acre plaza is part of Sundance Squares $110 million expansion to the 35-block business and entertainment district that began last year and is scheduled to be completed Nov. 1.The plaza, which takes in two surface parking lots stretching between Houston and Commerce streets and Third and Fourth streets, will also feature a multi-purpose stage, a 2,000-square-foot pavilion, outdoor patios and benches.It is flanked by two new office buildings that are under construction, The Westbrook, on the west, and The Commerce, to the east. Both have street-level space for shops and restaurants, most of which has been leased. A third new building, The Cassidy, will have six penthouse condos.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST