Arlington Final Four weekend will include free Friday activities

Posted Friday, Jan. 24, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Bracket Town

April 4-7, Dallas Convention Center. Interactive events, autograph sessions.

Final Four Friday

Noon-6:30 p.m. April 4, AT&T Stadium. Open one-hour practices for each team begin at noon. College All-Star Game begins at 4:30 p.m.

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The 2014 Final Four at AT&T Stadium is considered a sellout. But fans still can purchase seats for the April 5 and 7 games through a ticket exchange program or take part in multiple free or low-priced ancillary events outlined Wednesday by NCAA officials.

In addition to the fan-friendly Final Four staples of Bracket Town and the NCAA March Madness Music Festival, both of which will be in Dallas, there will be a day filled with free activities at the stadium April 4.

The lineup of free attractions in Arlington on the Friday before the start of Final Four games includes a tailgate party with on-site entertainment, open practices for each of the four competing teams and a college all-star game. Participants in the all-star game will be seniors from college teams that did not reach the Final Four.

The tailgate party is a fresh addition to the NCAA’s weekend lineup that also includes charitable initiatives to upgrade three local basketball courts, including the one at the Boys & Girls Club of Arlington. Other free activities include youth clinics at TCU, Elzie Odom Recreation Center in Arlington and Duncanville Field House.

Although all 77,000 seats for the games have been sold, assuring that the 2014 Final Four will set an NCAA attendance record, the maximum capacity for the Saturday and Monday sessions remains undetermined.

Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee, said that NCAA officials easily could have crowds in excess of 80,000 for both sessions. But no decision has been reached about how many standing-room-only seats will be sold.

“When I look at other stadiums in the country and their standing-room-only areas compared to this, this is pretty nice,” Wellman said during a news conference at the stadium. “We’re set up right now for a little over 77,000 to be seated. But there will be some standing room areas available. … We know this is going to be the highest-attended Final Four ever. We will break all of the attendance records, for sure.”

Once a decision is reached on standing-room-only seats, those will be made available. Fans interested in sitting for the games can purchase tickets through the NCAA Ticket Exchange, a secure site where NCAA officials guarantee the available tickets are authentic.

Regardless of the final turnout, Wellman said NCAA officials have been impressed enough with the DFW market and AT&T Stadium to predict that future high-profile college events will return to the venue.

“It’s a great market,” Wellman said. “It’s easily accessible. You’ve got a great venue in AT&T Stadium. It is an area that has successfully hosted these types of events in the past, so I think you’re going to see this market used an awful lot in the future by the NCAA for these types of events.”

In addition to the Friday activities at the stadium, two of the NCAA’s most popular ancillary events are the three-day music festival (Friday-Sunday) at Reunion Park (former site of Reunion Arena) and Bracket Town at the Dallas Convention Center. The music festival is free.

To ease traffic congestion, a phone application will be available Feb. 3 that will allow fans to purchase two-day or four-day passes on the Trinity Railway Express that includes complimentary shuttle rides to and from the stadium on game days from the CentrePort/DFW stop.

“If you have a hotel in downtown Dallas or downtown Fort Worth, you can take the trains to see the games if you want. So it’s a nice option,” said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Information about the youth clinics, Bracket Town tickets and other activities, as well as opportunities to volunteer for Final Four-related jobs, can be found at NCAA.com/FinalFour.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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