San Antonio Readies for 2018 NCAA Final Four

By jacqueline beretta

With the 2018 NCAA Final Four fast approaching, NCAA officials and the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee teamed up with local leaders Wednesday to announce key details about the long-anticipated event.

“We have been working for years as a community to prepare for this historic event — the first Final Four in San Antonio in 10 years, during our tricentennial,” said Pat Frost, chair of the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee, which is collaborating with the NCAA to host the Final Four. “It’s almost here, and you can feel the excitement across the city. We promise that it will be an unforgettable experience for the visiting student-athletes, alumni, fans, media and NCAA corporate champions and partners, as well as local residents.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, former University of Arizona player Sean Elliott and Unilever Customer Development Lead – HEB, Steve Kohring joined the NCAA and SALOC officials at a news conference at Higgs Carter King Gifted and Talented Academy which will be the site of the NCAA® Men’s Final Four® Legacy Project presented by Dove Men+Care.

“The Final Four is proud to leave a lasting legacy in San Antonio,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “Four deserving teams and thousands of fans are going to come to this vibrant and historic city to enjoy the Final Four. We couldn’t be more excited to bring the Final Four back to San Antonio.”

The 2018 Final Four includes numerous legacy projects aimed at leaving a positive impact on the community long after the event. One key initiative is Read to the Final Four, whose mission is to inspire third-grade students in 68 schools across the city to accelerate their reading and increase achievement, using the excitement of the Final Four to spike their interests. More than 6,700 area third-graders started the free program Jan. 10. The 68 schools are competing in a contest modeled upon the March Madness bracket, advancing based on the number of minutes read. The final four schools will be recognized at Fan Fest on Monday, April 2, where one school will be crowned the reading champion and receive a $5,000 library make-over.

Officials also announced that work has begun on the third phase of the NCAA Men’s Final Four Legacy Project presented by Dove Men+Care.  As part of the San Antonio Sports School Parks program, the project that started last fall with the installation of a new soccer field continues with the construction of an outdoor basketball court and walking trail, located adjacent to Higgs Carter King Academy along San Pedro Creek. The park, to be named Legacy Park, will serve the schoolchildren during the day and offer extended hours on weekends and after school for the community to enjoy.

“With the generous support of the NCAA and Dove Men+Care, we are able to turn what was unusable space into something the whole community can enjoy,” said Russ Bookbinder, president and CEO of San Antonio Sports. “Not only does this play into our commitment to sustainability, it also contributes to San Antonio Sports’ mission to provide children in our city with safe places to play.” The new court will be dedicated during the week of the Final Four.

The legacy park project adds to the announcement that the NCAA and SALOC also are enhancing the San Antonio Sports i play! afterschool program by including a basketball unit as part of the 25-week program that serves 1,250 third- through fifth-graders in the Harlandale and San Antonio independent school districts. All students in the program this year will receive a special Final Four jersey and basketball, with the final four teams in the program’s culminating tournament being invited to play on Buick Arena in Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capitol One.

Officials outlined plans for the following ancillary events, which are offered at free or low cost to the public (for more details, visit ncaa.com/finalfour):

Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One, held at the Henry B. González Convention Center from Friday, March 30, through Monday, April 2. Fans can enjoy interactive sports activities, special performances, photo ops, prizes, autograph sessions and more. Children 12 and younger are admitted for free, as well as any Capital One cardholders. The NCAA is honoring San Antonio as Military City USA by allowing anyone with a military ID free entry into Fan Fest as well. Early-bird tickets are available through March 16 for just $8 per person and $10 after that.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Final Four weekend, the NCAA will host the March Madness Music Festival at Hemisfair. This is a free event, open to the public and presented by NCAA corporate champions AT&T, Coke and Capital One and will feature two stages with top national performing artists to be announced closer to the event.

Reese’s Final Four Friday is March 30 at the Alamodome. It’s free and fans can watch all the Final Four teams practice on the Final Four court, hear from each head coach and stay for the National Association of Basketball Coaches Reese’s College All-Star Game to see top senior student-athletes from around the country participate.

Final Four Dribble presented by Buick is a free event at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 1, starting at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Thousands of children will be given their own Final Four T-shirt and official NCAA basketball to dribble through downtown streets along a route ending at Fan Fest, where they will receive free entry. Parents/guardians are required to preregister their children at ncaa.com/finalfour to reserve a spot. Space is limited to the first 3,000 children younger than 18. Registration begins today.

For updates on all Final Four events, including talent announcements, residents are encouraged to follow Final Four — San Antonio on Facebook or @finalfour on Twitter and Instagram.