March Madness

Preps Underway as March Madness Comes to North Texas

Dallas is slated to host the NCAA women's Final Four college basketball tournament March 31 through April 2.

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Over the next few days, thousands of people are expected to pour into downtown Dallas as March Madness comes to North Texas.

Preparations are underway for Dallas to host the NCAA Women's Final Four college basketball tournament. Events are also planned all week to celebrate women in sports.

"This is a year and a half to two years’ worth of planning to get to this point,” said Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission.

For only the second time in the 41-year history of NCAA women’s basketball, the NCAA Division II and III national championships will take place in Dallas. Both games will be Saturday, April 1, at the American Airlines Center, with the Division III championship game tipping at 11 a.m. Central time, followed by the Division II title game at 2:30 p.m. Central time.

“It is an undertaking of monumental proportions to make this happen. It’s more than just rolling the basketball onto the court,” said Amy Reis, director of women's basketball for the NCAA.

Crews have been working hard in the last 24 hours at the AAC to switch out the ice, which was used for the Dallas’ Stars game on Sunday, for a basketball court designed just for the Final Four.

"It's about a six to nine-month process to put it together. It's roughly a couple 100 panels and put together by a team in about two hours,” said Kurt Kosmowski with Connor Sports, which is based in Northern Michigan. “As you see, that design is very distinct and very Dallas-centric. So we're really proud of that. We really hope folks watching it in person or on TV or enjoy the dynamics.”

This tournament is more than just watching basketball. It’s also a celebration of the fans that love the sport.

"Tourism is very important,” said Paul. "I think it's important that [Dallas] is really established as a premier sports destination and one that is very supportive of women's sports overall."

The final four is expected to pump about $35 million dollars into the local economy.

“Dallas is an amazing sports city. They can deliver,” said Reis. “They hosted here previously in 2017 with great success with the first women's final four selling out at that time. And so why not return to a city that's delivered for us before?”

Fanfare Beyond The Court

Tickets to watch the games are still on sale online.

But even if you're not watching the games in person, there are free fan festivals, concerts and a parade are planned throughout the weekend – all in or near downtown Dallas.

Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is being transformed into Tourney Town, a final four fan fest of sorts. The center will host games, giveaways, merchandise and photo opportunities, along with celebrity appearances in halls A and B. A panel series called 'Beyond the Baseline' is featuring five sessions of guest speakers and discussions diversity, advocacy, and empowerment of women in sports.

Fans can also watch open practice for free at the AAC on Thursday, March 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Doors open at 10 a.m. There will also be fan experiences and a live DJ. Click here for details.

One of the bigger free events is Bounce, happening on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Youth ages 18 and younger are invited to participate in this unique parade of fans dribbling their way along the streets of Dallas, from City Hall Plaza to the convention center. Parents and chaperones are encouraged to walk the parade route. The first 2,000 participants will receive a free basketball and T-shirt. Online preregistration is recommended and spots are limited.

AT&T Discovery District is hosting a free Super Saturday Concert featuring headliner Saweetie. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

The women's final four trophy is already on display at the AT&T Discovery District as part of the NCAA’s Title IX 50th Anniversary Showcase.

The showcase celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX through a display of trophies, videos, uniforms, and other mementos that recognize and celebrate NCAA female student-athletes from all sports.

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The first game kicks off at 6 p.m. this Friday and by next Sunday evening, we'll know who will be taking that trophy home. Click here for a full schedule of the games.

So far, LSU and Iowa are advancing to the Women's Final Four. On Monday night, South Carolina will face Maryland -- and Virginia Tech against Ohio State. -- for the final two spots.

As DFW continues to win key events in major sports, the goal is to keep that ball – and that momentum – rolling.

“That's one of our main goals from a sports commission standpoint, is to attract sporting events that take place here in Dallas that bring in spectators, fans, and teams that spend money here and have the incremental tax dollars that benefit the residents of Dallas," said Paul.

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