It's going to be hard to top the present San Antonio just got for its 300th birthday. Friday, just before the tip off a new college basketball season, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced the host cities for the Men’s Division I Final Four in the 2017-2020 cycle. San Antonio was chosen as the 2018 host site.
A press conference was held at Sunset Station after the announcement. Members of City Council and the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee, which put together the city’s bid, were swept up in the jubilation of the moment.
“We did it!” shouted City Manager Sheryl Sculley from the podium. She added that she was finally able to undo the knot that had been in her stomach all day.
The announcement was the culmination of a yearlong bidding process. Michael Sawaya, Director of the City’s Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities, identified the city’s commitment to improving the Alamodome as the key factor that sold the NCAA on San Antonio as a host.
He cited the cost of these improvements to be approximately $40-43 million (about double the expected cost SALOC Russ Bookbinder estimated in an interview a year ago). Renderings of the proposed Alamodome improvements were on display at the conference. They include a new 24,000 sq. ft. room, an expanded concourse, and locker room improvements.
UTSA Athletic Director and Organizing Committee member Lynn Hickey chalked up the success of the bid as a victory for the City Council and the Committee. She praised Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Council’s commitment to the event. “The City Council was outstanding. They made it happen,” she said. "The best bid yet."
San Antonio has hosted the men’s event three times before, but as Mayor Taylor noted, the projected economic will be far greater than the last time the city hosted in 2008. Sawaya estimates the impact to the city will be $85 million.
"Once again, all that makes San Antonio special will be showcased across the country and around the world,” Taylor said.
Organizing Committee CEO Russ Bookbinder brought up some tangential events to the Final Four, including the March Madness Music Festival, a free music festival accompanying the event that will take place at the renovated Hemisfair Park and will bring in “name bands.”
Before the “Bring It! River Rally,” I wrote that that the Alamodome was the one hindrance to bringing an event of this magnitude back to San Antonio. As Carnes explained, the city had the perfect package in terms of its footprint, but it was competing against seven cities with NFL-quality stadiums. Sawaya said that once the Committee identified and committed to change all the discrepancies between the Alamodome and the other competing stadiums, the NCAA “was all in.”
“We did everything they asked of us," Carnes said of the Alamodome renovations. "We checked every box. We met every specification. We signed every agreement. We couldn’t have followed their directions any better. We did everything they asked of us.”
The success of this bid portends good things for San Antonio as a host site for similar events. When asked if this would help bring other major events to San Antonio, Carnes said, “No question. It’s going to make the Alamodome so much more competitive for all the other events we look at.” She cited the College Football Championship as one possibility.
*Featured/top image: City Manager Sheryl Sculley speaks at a press conference after news broke that San Antonio will be hosting the NCAA Final Four in 2018. Photo by Taylor Browning.