The Tip-off: Final Four fever heating up on GWCCA campus

Jan. 16, 2020

We don’t yet know what quartet of college and university teams will be represented here, but many of the other pieces of a fantastic NCAA Men’s Final Four are coming together.

And the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s (GWCCA) downtown Atlanta campus will be the epicenter of Final Four activity.

Welcome to The Tip-off, a new unConventional series bringing you the latest news, features and behind-the-scenes stories about the GWCCA campus’ journey to the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Marking 80 days until March Madness culminates on the GWCCA campus, the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee and NCAA hosted a tip-off press conference Wednesday (Jan. 15) at downtown rooftop event space Ventanas to promote the slate of family-and-budget-friendly fan events surrounding the Final Four.

The actual Division I games will be played April 4 and April 6 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) on the GWCCA campus, representing the state-of-the-art venue’s first foray into bigtime basketball, but a variety of events leading up to the championship game will transform Atlanta’s championship campus into a hotbed of hoops action and fan engagement starting April 3.

Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball, interviewed by local media on Jan. 15 at Ventanas near the GWCCA campus.

“There’s an enormous amount of activity for fans – even if you don’t have tickets to the games – in downtown Atlanta the entire weekend and nearly everything is either free or very low-cost, ” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s Senior Vice President of Basketball. “We encourage everyone to come down and celebrate Atlanta, celebrate college basketball and all these incredible things.”

Final Four events on the GWCCA campus include:

  • Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One, April 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) featuring interactive games, celebrity and athlete appearances, autograph sessions and more. Tickets, which went on sale Wednesday, are $10 for adults, free for ages 12 and younger, and Capital One cardholders. Get tickets here. There’s also a promo code you can redeem by being a reader of this blog. Look at the above graphic for the code. This promo code is for half-priced adult tickets to Final Four Fan Fest.
  • Also tipping off on April 3 is the free March Madness Music Festival at Centennial Olympic Park, consisting of the AT&T Block Party (April 3), followed by Coca-Cola Music on April 4, and Capital One JamFest featuring Taylor Swift on April 5. More performing artists will be announced in the coming weeks.
  • April 3 is also the date for the free Reese’s Final Four Friday at MBS, where fans can get a first glimpse of the court set-up inside the stadium and watch the Final Four teams practice. “The biggest thing you’ll notice is we put a basketball court on the football field, of course, we remove the turf,” said JoAn Scott, NCAA Managing Director of Men’s Basketball. “We will bring in 25,000 seats – which is larger than most NBA venues.” The NCAA’s seating system will surround the court and blend in with the stadium’s permanent seating, so the NCAA hopes to reach 80,000 in attendance and set a new record, Scott said. The team’s open practices on April 3 will be followed by the Reese’s All-Star Game, featuring the top NCAA senior players on the MBS court.

In addition to the Division I games at MBS, the NCAA Division II and Division III men’s championship games will also be played at campus neighbor State Farm Arena on April 5. And get this – the DII and DIII championships are free and open to the public. It’s only the second time in NCAA history that all three men’s division national championships have been played in the same city during the same weekend. The last time was in 2013, when the now-defunct Georgia Dome hosted the Final Four and the adjacent arena, then known as Philips, hosted DII and DIII championships.

Carl Adkins, Executive Director of the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee.

“With daily activities, concerts and National Championship games in all three divisions being held in one weekend, the NCAA Final Four will give Atlanta locals and visitors alike unique and affordable opportunities to be part of the Final Four,” said Carl Adkins, Executive Director of the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee.

As mentioned, this isn’t Atlanta’s or the GWCCA campus’ first Final Four rodeo, but it’s the first since 2013, and much has changed since then, especially on the GWCCA’s 220-plus acre downtown Atlanta campus, including the addition of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, $27 million in improvements to Centennial Olympic Park and the GWCC’s new $55 million exhibit hall.

“This is the fifth one in Atlanta – why can’t this one be the biggest and the best?” asked Kevin White, Vice President and Director of Athletics at Duke University and Chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee. “What are my expectations? The very best we’ve ever had.”

The Tip-off is a bi-monthly series tracking the Georgia World Congress Center Authority campus’ march to the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Posted by
Kent Kimes   Sr. Staff Writer
on Jan. 16, 2020
A metro Atlanta native, Kent joined the Authority in 2015. He is your digital tour guide to the No. 1 convention, sports and entertainment destination in the world. His customer service approach is summed up by the Little River Band track "Help Is On Its Way."

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