NCAA officials have made their final site visit in preparation for the 2014 Final Four in Arlington, leaving members of the North Texas Local Organizing Committee in optimistic countdown mode as they await the arrival of teams for the April 5-7 event at AT&T Stadium.
DFW’s first Final Four in 28 years already is considered a sellout, with NCAA representatives undecided about how many standing-room-only tickets to sell in addition to the 77,000 seats that have been purchased for both sessions. As things stand, local organizers consider themselves “in great shape” to handle the logistical challenges that will surface in five weeks, when the Final Four arrives in Arlington
“The NCAA has consistently told us that we are right on schedule, if not ahead of schedule, on things,” committee spokesman Tony Fay said during Friday’s weekly meeting of the Fort Worth Rotary Club at the Fort Worth Club. “For the next month, we are going to have a lot of last-minute preparation, buttoning things down. But I think we are in great shape.”
Years of planning will be put to the test during a long weekend of tournament games and ancillary events in Arlington and Dallas, including a three-day free music festival (April 4-6) at Reunion Park, former site of Reunion Arena in downtown Dallas. Fay said headliner acts for the music festival are expected to be announced next week. Past attractions have included Jimmy Buffett, KISS, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Sting, Ludacris, Flo Rida, Kid Rock and the Dave Matthews Band.
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Regardless of who serves as this year’s headliners at the March Madness Music Festival, Fay said organizers will begin construction March 21 on a huge stage and fencing around Reunion Park designed to allow “as many folks as the fire marshal allows” to take part in the three days of free music.
Those will not be the only musical acts involved with Final Four weekend. In an effort to entice fans to AT&T Stadium well in advance of tip-off times for the Saturday and Monday sessions, there will be interactive games and live bands for ticket holders in front of the stadium. Identities of the participating bands at the pregame tailgate parties, a Final Four first, will be announced later.
“Obviously, we have traffic. We want people visiting our area to get out to the stadium early and beat the traffic,” Fay said. “So there will be a nice little party out in front of the stadium for ticket holders.”
Fay said organizers are working on a phone app, expected to be available by mid-March, to assist the anticipated 100,000 visitors to DFW in finding their way to Final Four-related events. Although team hotels will be in Dallas, as well as the highest-profile ancillary events (Bracket Town and the music festival), ESPN will anchor its Final Four coverage from a set in Sundance Square, as the network did during Super Bowl XLV.
Along with fans who book hotels in Fort Worth, the ESPN presence figures to be the city’s most significant tie to the 2014 Final Four. But organizers anticipate a spike in tourism in the Stockyards area, cultural district and other city attractions.
“The hospitality in Fort Worth is legendary. It’s where you want to come to enjoy your western flavor and things of that nature,” Fay said. “I think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of foot traffic in Fort Worth.”
For now, organizers remain in countdown mode after 10 months of regular site visits from NCAA administrators.
“They have kept us on task. They told us what we needed to do … to bring their vision to life,” Fay said. “And I think we’ve got a really wonderful week planned.”
For local organizers, the acid test comes in April.