Mayor, organizers aim to host tournament that brings ‘the best possible experience for sports fans everywhere’
Super Bowl: Check, check, check. College football championship game: Multiple checks.
NCAA Final Four: Getting ready to check that box.
With the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four matchup heading into town next week, local leaders are excited but not awed.
“This may be our first Final Four, but it is not our first rodeo,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said at a news conference Friday.
Arizona successfully hosted the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 and the college football championship in 2016, and it draws large crowds to pro-golf and auto-racing events every year.
Phoenix “looks forward to hosting the best possible experience for sports fans everywhere,” Stanton said.
The news conference touched on public safety and transportation options as well as next weekend’s Music Festival and Fan Fest.
Stanton said while he has enjoyed helping to host the other sporting events, this one is special because he “loves college basketball.”
With teams like Arizona, his undergraduate alma mater Marquette University and his law school alma mater the University of Michigan out of the tournament, he said he wouldn’t have to pay attention to his NCAA bracket anymore “because it’s busted!”
“Now I can focus fully on just being the best host mayor that I could possibly be for this Final Four event,” he said.
Safety is a priority
All joking aside, Stanton wanted to convey that Arizona takes the privilege to host the Final Four and other sporting events seriously when it comes to public safety.
Lisa Jones, director for the Phoenix Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said event planners have been “working in a dedicated way for the last six months to ensure the safety for the citizens in the city of Phoenix.”
Jones said officials have drawn ideas and developed protocols based on other recent large-scale sporting events hosted in Arizona.
“We are confident in our ability to meet the needs of this event,” she said.
Law-enforcement officials asked for the public’s partnership in reporting incidents that do not seem “normal in nature.”
Jones cited the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” initiative if they should see any suspicious activities and/or people.
There are two ways to report incidents: Call 877-2-SAVE-AZ or submit tips and leads online at AZACTIC.gov.
“I have even greater respect for our local police and fire officials after going through the planning process with them this last year for this event,” said Dawn Rogers, executive director and CEO for Phoenix Local Organizing Committee.
Review rules before heading out
Organizers also went over critical “know before you go” details, including that all events will have a strict clear-bag policy.
Bags will be available at the events until supplies run out.
The court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral
Images of prohibited bags and items can be seen at the Phoenix Final Four website, www.phoenixfinalfour.com/4tips, or on the free Final Four app. Visitors also will be able to bring in unopened water bottles.
Stanton said Phoenix and Glendale have learned from past events how to financially manage these events. The free concerts are an extension of the corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola, AT&T and Capital One and will not cost taxpayers any money now or in the future, he said.
City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said he wants visitors to see that in Phoenix “we are focused on education” and technology industries.
Stanton said Phoenix is ready to host tens of thousands of people, and the hope is that when Arizona’s guests leave, they will want to make plans to come back.
“Our city — this community — has proven, over and over again, that we can host the world with pride, hospitality and expertise,” Stanton said.
“We all can’t wait for next weekend.”
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