Fans gather for the national title game in Glendale. Video: Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
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Sammi Dugan and Maria Lafferty were turned away from the March Madness Music Festival in downtown Phoenix, which hit capacity at 3:45 p.m. Sunday, April 2, 2016. (Alexis Berdine/azcentral.com)
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About 3,000 kids dribble through downtown Phoenix for the Final Four Dribble on Sunday, April 2, 2017. (Patrick Breen/azcentral.com)
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FINAL FOUR: Fans react as Gonzaga survives late S. Carolina rally, advances to championship 77-73. (Alden Woods/azcentral)
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Fans arrive early for the festivities before the Final Four games Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Patrick Breen/azcentral)
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Would you spend $7,500 for three games of the best college basketball? How about $275? Reporter Perry Vandell breaks down the action on the tickets before the big games. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
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Downtown Phoenix gets ready to host the NCAA Final Four Fan Fest and house the teams as they play in nearby Glendale for the NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azcentral.com
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The court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral
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The massive scoreboard known as “Colussus TV” is installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for the upcoming NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azentral.com
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Mark Hubler, emergency manager for Glendale, talks about the Final Four on Feb. 28, 2017, in the Emergency Operation Center, Glendale.
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Fans arrive for NCAA championship game
March Madness Music Festival hits capacity early
Final Four hits the streets with a Dribble walk!
Gonzaga fans in Glendale react to win over S. Carolina in NCAA semifinal
Fans pack University of Phoenix Stadium lawn for Final Four
Which seats in the Final Four house are still available?
Downtown Phoenix gets ready for NCAA Final Four
Piece by piece, the court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together in Glendale
Scoreboard installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for Final Four
Preparing for the Final Four in Glendale
The NCAA men’s national championship game is here. What’s happening in metro Phoenix? Check back for frequent updates all Monday on the scene at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale and the Final Four Fan Fest in Phoenix.
6:20 p.m.: It’s go time
The Valley’s first-ever ?NCAA Men’s Division I Championship Game tipped off on time Monday.
North Carolina royalty, with five titles to its name, is competing for its sixth title against upstart Gonzaga, which made its first-ever Final Four appearance in Glendale on Saturday.
6:10 p.m.: Police chief in the crowd
Law enforcement and private security are a common sight courtside, but one member stood out amongst the rest — Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams.
Williams wore a smile on her face as she commended the efforts of not just her officers, but government employees across all departments.
“Our folks really did a good job — and it wasn’t just public safety,” she said. “So what people don’t know is behind the scenes we have transit, we have water, we have the public information office, we just have this team effort of making sure all these folks who came to visit have a good time and are safe and I think we’ve successfully done that so I’m really proud of us.”
When asked if law enforcement had to deal with any threats — active or otherwise — Williams said she’s received intelligence briefs, but zero threats. She noted, however, that law enforcement stood ready should anything arise.
6 p.m.: Waiting for 6:16
A packed stadium waited eagerly for the tip off. Many entertained the crowd with elaborate outfits dedicated to their team of choice.
A quick glance at the student sections showed more Gonzaga students with fun costumes, such as a Luchador dressed in head-to-toe red and blue, a boxer complete with boxing gloves, and Dr. Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2.
5:30 p.m. Tailgates close – it’s go time
The Tip-Off Tailgate and the high-priced Official NCAA VIP Experience both closed at 5:30 p.m., pushing fans to head into the University of Phoenix Stadium ahead of the 6:19 p.m. start time.
Inside the stadium, the players were warming up on the court.
4:50 p.m. Last call: No alcohol in the stadium
Strategic beer vendors lined the exit of the tailgate, warning fans it’s their last call for alcohol.
“They will not be serving alcohol on the inside,” one yelled.
Many fans took them up on it, chugging $10 cans of beer as they walked toward the University of Phoenix Stadium entry. Lines to enter the stadium moved quickly. Instead, people waited waited longer to buy official merchandise at the entrance.
4:30 p.m.: Rock at the tailgate
Rock group Collective Soul took to the stage at the Tip-Off Tailgate near the stadium around 4:30 p.m. The best seats in the house might be the invite-only TBS, CBS, TNT and Tru TV pre-game party at the tailgate. The balcony directly overlooked the stage.
The adjacent beer garden flooded with people drinking Bud Light and Kilt Lifter and playing a giant version of Jenga.
4:15 p.m. Visitors loving Arizona weather, views
Kevin Frisby and Bryan Savage — two gym buddies wearing opposing team shirts — were an odd sight outside the stadium.
Neither were fans of any of the teams. Savage said attending a Final Four was on his bucket list, and invited his friend to join him there on his birthday weekend. Savage, wearing Gonzaga gear, said he bought shirts from all four teams so he’d be wearing the winner no matter who won.
Emmalee McNeil and Janay Davis drove from around Spokane, Wash., to Phoenix for the game, a 22-hour journey ending late Friday night. Davis said she and many other Gonzaga students drove to avoid the $400-and-up plane tickets. While McNeil lounged by the hotel pool to recover from the drive, Davis hit up bars on Mill Avenue in Tempe and in downtown Scottsdale.
“Everyone’s just so accommodating here,” McNeil said. Davis, who hadn’t been to Arizona before, said locals should appreciate the lack of traffic compared with the Seattle area and the “nightmare” that was Interstate 5.
Tony Blount and his girlfriend, Shiho Lindsey, learned the Final Four was in Glendale mere days before their planned vacation to the state. Blount is from North Carolina and said he was determined to have a seat just in case they win. They plan to visit Sedona and the Grand Canyon later this week.
Many visitors said Arizona’s clear skies, warm weather and welcoming people convinced them that their first time in the Valley wouldn’t be their last. And being able to try the region-specific In-N-Out Burger didn’t hurt.
4 p.m. Stadium gates open
Fans eager to get into their seats – or out of the sun – hours ahead of the 6:19 p.m. tip-off time flooded into University of Phoenix Stadium as doors opened at 4 p.m.
3:40 p.m. Grab a $12 turkey leg
Fans at the Tip-Off Tailgate near the stadium lined up for their chance in the limelight before the big game.
There were at least four spots to shoot baskets for free – after signing a waiver, of course. Photo booths throughout the grounds offered the chance to simulate dunking the ball, dance in a quick video or make a gif from the Ferris Wheel.
The CBS Sports Network was broadcasting in front of throngs of fans trying to get on TV, while others were seeking shade in the beer garden or on the side of the tailgate BBQ, where a turkey leg cost a hefty $12.
3:30 p.m. StubHub average ticket price is $364
Wondering about ticket prices to the championship game? Ticket marketplace StubHub has some answers.
The average ticket price for the game is $364, up 3 percent from last year’s final between Villanova and North Carolina, according to StubHub information released Monday afternoon. Demand for tickets to this year’s final between Gonzaga and North Carolina is up 8 percent from last year’s showdown between Villanova and North Carolina.
People in all 50 states and seven countries have bought tickets, including from Ukraine, Namibia and Australia. The state with the greatest number of buyers is – no surprise here – Arizona.
So far, the most expensive ticket to the game sold on StubHub went for $3,000, and the least expensive sold for $50.
3 p.m. Phoenix Suns at Fan Fest
Phoenix Suns players Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis appeared at the Final Four Fan Fest in the Phoenix Convention Center Monday afternoon.
Devin Booker’s Kentucky Wildcats are no longer in the tournament, but he was still in Phoenix taking pictures with fans. The guard set a Phoenix Suns record earlier this year when he scored 70 points against the Boston Celtics.
Tyler Ulis joined in on the festivities at the Final Fan Fest to sign autographs and take pictures. He is the smallest player on the Phoenix Suns, but has played big recently.
2:30 p.m. Tailgating in full swing
The Tip-Off Tailgate was heating up by 2:30 p.m. outside the University of Phoenix Stadium, literally – It was 85 degrees with little shade.
Attendees used free mini Wendy’s Classic Chocolate Frosty desserts, Coca Cola samples and paper fans promoting the 2018 Final Four games in San Antonio to stay cool.
The tailgate is free for anyone with a ticket to the game and is open until 5:30 p.m., when fans will head into the game.
1:45 p.m. Parties gearing up in Glendale
Fans of both teams streamed through the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa right across from the stadium for a pre-championship party where there was live country music, games of cornhole and a $13 Bloody Mary bar with about a dozen types of hot sauces.
Some attendees were browsing for souvenirs at a merchandise stand and silent auction in the lobby. Bids started at a cool $1,295 for basketballs signed by North Carolina and Gonzaga players.
1:15 p.m. Students line up at the stadium
Gonzaga and North Carolina students lined the barrier outside University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, utilizing what little shade it provided.
A group of Gonzaga students said they had been waiting since 10 a.m. so as to get the best seats. One of the students, Bonzi Erickson, said the student seats are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Claire Monsas, another Gonzaga student, said they would have to wait in a another line for tickets once the stadium’s outer perimeter opened at 2 p.m.
The Gonzaga students far outnumbered North Carolina, though Hannah Frisch, a UNC student, said she wasn’t concerned. Frisch said fewer students drove to Arizona compared to last year’s Houston location, but those who flew in would arrive in due time.
Not every student was willing to stay for better seats. Another group of Gonzaga students were shocked after learning the gates wouldn’t open for another couple hours, and debated about sacrificing their seat placement for food and sunscreen. They decided someone would stay behind to hold their place in line – whom that would be, however, was another question entirely.
Noon: College students get into Fan Fest for free
Anyone who is a student at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona or Grand Canyon University can get into the Final Four Fan Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center for free with a student ID Monday.
10:30 a.m.: Ticket prices drop to $100 each
Ticket prices have fallen all week, pushed down each time a buzzer sounded and knocked another team out of the NCAA Tournament. Now that the final tip-off is an afternoon away, tickets to see Gonzaga and North Carolina play for the national championship are available for around $100 online.
Tonight’s game has been sold out for months, but just over 2,000 tickets are for sale online, according TicketIQ, an online aggregator. Tickets sold for an average of $305 over the weekend. The cheapest available seat, tucked high in a corner of University of Phoenix Stadium, has an asking price of $114.
“As predicted, tickets are quickly coming down,” said TicketIQ spokesman Ralph Garcia.
In the weeks leading up to this year’s Final Four, the ticket market slipped and became one of the cheapest in years. But a matchup of high-profile No. 1 seeds in the national championship game have caused prices to jump back up, creating one of the most expensive title games in years.
After Saturday’s semifinal games ended, the cheapest available ticket to Monday’s game spiked to $179. That’s routine: Fans still riding the high of their team’s latest win are often willing to pay well above market value. The drop that followed is also typical: In every round of the NCAA Tournament, ticket prices peak the moment games end and slowly slip until the next game starts.
Last-minute tickets to last year’s championship game, in Houston, were available for as little as $72.
Monday morning: It’s the big day!
It will be blue blood vs. new blood in the national championship game Monday. North Carolina royalty, with five titles to its name, will compete for its sixth against upstart Gonzaga, which made its first-ever Final Four appearance in Glendale on Saturday.
And if the two nail-biter semifinals are any indication, the championship game will make the Valley’s first-ever NCAA Final Four one for the ages.
And remember, University of Phoenix Stadium is not selling alcohol of any kind at its concession stands. Don’t say we didn’t tell you!
TV schedule for Monday
Semifinal winners, 6:19 p.m., Channel 5 (Play-by-play: Jim Nantz. Analysts: Bill Raftery, Grant Hill. Reporter: Tracy Wolfson)
Compiled by Arizona Republic reporter Kaila White from reports by Republic reporters Perry Vandell, Brenna Goth, Alden Woods and Eric Newman.
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