The road to the Final Four traditionally begins in Dayton. And this year, the Dayton community has committed to supporting the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament’s Opening Nights like it never has.
With a sellout.
The 2013 NCAA First Four on March 19-20 will mark the 13th consecutive year that March Madness has kicked off in Dayton, Ohio at the University of Dayton Arena. Dayton’s First Four Local Organizing Committee has secured enough early commitments that community leaders have declared the two-day event will sell out. A sellout would be a first since the First Four, and before it, the Opening Round became part of the NCAA Tournament format.
Fans in the Dayton region have made UD Arena one of the nation's top venues for college basketball. The Arena has played host to more NCAA men's basketball tournament games than any other site in the country. It has ranked in the top 35 in attendance nationally every year since opening in 1969.
“The University of Dayton is pleased to host the First Four games again this year, and we are honored with the confidence extended by the NCAA," said Daniel J. Curran, president of the University of Dayton. "The University has always enjoyed great support from the Dayton community. Already, basketball fans have stepped up and put us very close to an Arena sellout months before the tournament. We will continue working with the First Four Local Organizing Committee to enhance the experience for all First Four student-athletes and fans."
Former Flyer stand-out Brian Roberts, who now plays for the New Orleans Hornets, appreciates UD Arena's atmosphere — and the fan support. "Playing in front of 13,000 fans every night was a highlight of my four years as a Dayton Flyer," said Roberts, who graduated in 2008. "The atmosphere and the support at UD Arena make it one of the premier venues in all of college basketball. It is no wonder Dayton is continually chosen to host the NCAA tournament. The fans genuinely love and appreciate basketball."
In just its third year under the current format, Dayton and the First Four have already made their share of history. In 2011, tournament Cinderella VCU's journey started with a win in Dayton. Last year, the inaugural First Four Festival attracted more than 15,000 to downtown Dayton on Selection Sunday. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first heads of state to attend an NCAA tournament game when they joined fans at UD Arena for an opening-night game.
"Eyeing a first-ever NCAA First Four sellout at UD Arena, even before the college basketball season begins, demonstrates the extraordinary commitment from this community and the seriousness with which we take our role as host to the First Four," said J.P. Nauseef, chairman of the Local Organizing Committee for the First Four. "The Dayton community enjoys college basketball and hosting the kick-off of March Madness provides us with the ideal platform to showcase our great attributes and have fun at the same time."
In 2013, the economic impact of the First Four and second- and third-round games — all to be played at UD Arena — is estimated to top $10 million, according to Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition and LOC committee member. "The First Four has proven valuable to the entire region. It provides an infusion of dollars and puts Dayton on the national stage through the successful media reach of the tournament," he said. "The exposure for our community has been beyond our expectations and reflects the economic development opportunity brought by the First Four."
Last year, Dayton's NCAA First Four Local Organizing Committee built a uniquely "Dayton event," bringing together the NCAA, the United States Air Force, the University of Dayton and the Dayton community. Organizers raised nearly $1.5 million to launch the inaugural "NCAA First Four Festival," an effort to create a "Final Four experience" for the newly created First Four. In its inaugural year, the festival attracted a crowd of more than 15,000, with some area businesses reporting healthy increases in revenues. Additionally, the Dayton region enjoyed millions of dollars of media exposure, including more than 2.1 billion media impressions outside the Dayton market, according to the media-monitoring service Cision.
“The NCAA is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NCAA men’s basketball championship this season, and the buzz a sellout crowd will generate in the Arena will be a great way to launch the 2013 tournament,” UD Vice-President and Director of Athletics Tim Wabler said. “Feedback from the teams and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee make it obvious that community support is a critical factor in awarding future NCAA sites. It has to be clear, no matter where any visitor travels in the Dayton area that week, that Dayton is the center of the college basketball world when the NCAA comes to town. We have the chance to cement the First Four in Dayton for years to come. It’s our goal to make Dayton as synonymous with the First Four as Omaha is with the College World Series.”
In addition to hosting the First Four, UD Arena is also the site of Second and Third Round Games on March 22-24. Tickets are still available for the Second and Third Rounds. To buy tickets, visit DaytonFlyers.com.