Final Four to continue to call massive venues home through at least 2026
It’s more of the same in college basketball when it comes to awarding the sport’s signature event to a host city.
Long gone are the days when a venue like Kansas City’s Kemper Arena — I still marvel at this every time I drive by it — and in to stay are massive buildings, many of them football stadiums, that, for one weekend in early April love to slap a college basketball court in the middle of the madness to crown a national champion.
Fresh off of a return to San Antonio, where the Kansas men’s basketball team joined Villanova, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago at this year’s Final Four, the city best known for the Alamo and Gregg Popovich can start making plans to host the event again in eight years.
The NCAA on Monday afternoon released the Final Four sites for the next set of four years, with San Antonio, which by nearly all accounts has been universally praised as a wonderful host city for the Final Four, earning its way back into the coveted rotation for the fifth time since 1998.
Those cities who got good news on Monday — at least in terms of revenue, tax dollars and visitors galore — were:
2023 – Houston (site of the 2016 Final Four)
2024 – Phoenix (site of the 2017 Final Four)
2025 – San Antonio (site of the 2018 Final Four)
Are you sensing a pattern here?
2026 – Indianapolis (site of the 2015 and 2021 Final Four and the 2018-19 season’s Champions Classic clash)
Add those sites to the following host cities, which were already in place and you’re looking at at least another eight years — and probably much longer — of Final Fours in enormous venues.
2019 – Minneapolis (last Final Four here was in 2001)
2020 – Atlanta (site of 2013 Final Four)
2021 – Indianapolis (see above)
2022 – New Orleans (site of the 2012 Final Four and one of three cities, in my opinion, that should be involved in a fixed, three-year revolving door system to host the event. (Indianapolis and San Antonio are the other two I like)
While the move to massive domes had been met with some negativity, the NCAA has done well during the past couple of years to make the make the venues as fan-friendly as possible while still maintaining their financial edge.
And while there were preliminary discussions as recently as 2012 about returning the Final Four to true basketball arenas, those talks appear to have been squashed altogether for the next decade or so, with the strength of the dollar winning out over the intimate feel of playing the game in a venue built for it.
The last time a true basketball arena hosted the Final Four came in 1996, when previously named Meadowlands Arena became Continental Airlines Arena and used its 20,000-seat capacity to host a Final Four that included Kentucky beating Syracuse in the 1996 national title game.
From 1997 to 2013, the NCAA required that all Final Fours take place in venues with a minimum seating capacity of 40,000 people. In 2009, the minimum capacity was bumped up to 70,000, which severely limits where the Final Four can be held, which is why you see the same cities over and over, and maximizes the NCAA’s earning potential off of the world class event.