DALLAS — Marquee sporting events aren’t only about the games anymore. It seems, in fact, that the actual games have taken a back seat to everything else.There are concerts and interactive fan experiences and live television broadcasts that generate just as much buzz as the game itself. North Texas saw it with the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, and it will happen again when the Final Four comes to Tarrant County in April.The NCAA and the North Texas Local Organizing Committee announced Tuesday its plans for a three-day outdoor music festival from April 4-6 on the grounds of the old Reunion Arena in downtown Dallas.The event will be free and open to the public, and is expected to draw headline acts that will be announced at a later date. Previous performers include the Dave Matthews Band, Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett, among others.“The Final Four is not just a basketball game, it’s an event,” said Ron Wellman, chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and athletic director at Wake Forest. “We want fans, even the ones who don’t have tickets to the games, to enjoy the Final Four weekend and experience the event.”The event has drawn more than 150,000 people over three days in previous host cities. The NCAA and local committee felt the location of old Reunion Arena was a natural fit, too, because it is the site of where the Metroplex last held a Final Four in 1986.“We were looking for something unique and special and we realized it was right under our nose,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, chair of the local committee.Louisville defeated Duke in the ’86 championship game at Reunion Arena, which closed in June 2008 and was demolished in November 2009.Cowboys Stadium will be the final destination of college basketball this season, and DFW is also playing host to the opening games of the season with a tripleheader scheduled Friday at American Airlines Center.There had been talk of possibly having a kickoff event at Cowboys Stadium with four games being played simultaneously, giving it the feel of March Madness with multiple games going on at once.The logistics and teams, Anderson said, were figured out, but it didn’t come to fruition because of challenges to find the right broadcast partner. But it remains a possibility in the future.“I haven’t given up on that yet,” Anderson said, smiling.Briefly• The NCAA and local committee anticipate crowds of about 80,000 for the two day games will be played. That would set an NCAA Final Four record in attendance. The NBA All-Star Game drew more than 105,000 in 2010, but the NCAA does not plan to sell that many seats.• Several firsts came out of the 1986 Final Four at Reunion Arena that are now mainstays at the event, such as customized floors and commemorative tickets. Reserved seats, by the way, were $46 for the 1986 event. Reserve seats for this year’s Final Four will go for $190 for the three-game package.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison