PHOENIX – The Valley is on the clock.
The countdown to the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four began Thursday at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix when officials unveiled a clock in Terminal 4 that will tick down to tip off April 6-8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego even suggested a new nickname for the Valley of the Sun.
“We will be cementing our reputation as Championship Valley,” Gallego said.
Jay Parry, the president and CEO of the Final Four host committee, knows what these events bring to the state. Parry was CEO of the 2023 Super Bowl host committee and understands that the event is more than the games.
“The Men’s Final Four is so much more than a phenomenal weekend of basketball,” she said. “There is a supportive community event with free concerts, a fantastic fan festival among other events.
“And I can say there really is something for everyone around them and smile for the impact of events. The impact of the Final Four will be evident in Phoenix long after the championship, when the champions cut down the nets.”
Arizona State will serve as the host institution for the 2024 Men’s Final Four and Ray Anderson, ASU vice president for university athletics, said thousands from the school’s campus communities will be involved. When the Valley last played host to a Final Four in 2017, organizers requested nearly 3,000 volunteers.
“We will strive to involve every student, staff and faculty member on our Tempe campus, as well as our downtown Phoenix campus, which is home to 11,700 full-time students,” Anderson said. “And we will explore ways to involve our students with the ancillary events as well as activities at the state.”
JoAn Scott, the NCAA’s managing director of men’s basketball championships, was in Phoenix in 2016 giving nearly the same speech. This time, she expressed the positive relationships made since the tournament was last in Arizona.
“We really look forward to coming to Phoenix and renewing acquaintances, meeting new folks and collaborating again with all the statewide stakeholders that will be involved with the model Final Four,” Scott said.
Through the NCAA’s corporate sponsors, Coca-Cola and Capital One, there were a variety of events back in 2017. In Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, organizers hosted the NCAA March Madness Music Festival, which included performers such as Aerosmith, The Chainsmokers, along with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Since the 2017 Final Four, Hance Park has undergone a near $100 million revitalization project, improving areas of the park with such amenities as a community garden. Gallego took part in those projects and is ecstatic for the world to see what Phoenix has to offer seven years later.
“We’ll be able to highlight our skyline, which has grown tremendously since we last hosted in 2017,” she said. “We’ll welcome people to amazing restaurants, including America’s best pizza at Pizzeria Bianco. They’ll have a new, better experience at Sky Harbor with the convenience of SkyTrain and they can whisk away from that SkyTrain and Waymo’s autonomous rideshare from our airport.”
Gallego was referring to another mark in the record books the city made in December 2022, when Sky Harbor became the first airport in the world to offer autonomous rideshare. The evolution of technology and innovation throughout Arizona, made the state a premier destination for the Final Four.
Arizona continues to stand out when it comes to sporting events, hosting the Final Four in 2017, four Super Bowls and the annual Fiesta Bowl. Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs spoke about what tourists can do while enjoying one of their favorite sporting events of the year.
“Only in Arizona can you go skiing in the morning and take a desert hike in the afternoon,” Hobbs said. “The schedule of the tournaments will give visitors a few extra days to check out the state with time to make any number of excellent day trips around our great state.
“We hope that folks will come and enjoy the many resorts, spas, golf courses and restaurants that the Valley has to offer as well.”
Despite the range of cities and scenery available to visitors in Arizona, the state – along with most of the rest of the western U.S. – was largely ignored by the NCAA when planning the Final Four until recently.
Before the Valley hosted the 2017 Final Four, Seattle was the last western city to host the event, clear back to 1995. Besides Seattle and the Grand Canyon State, there have been no other Men’s Final Four hosted west of Texas. With the addition of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, that city will host the event in 2028 and could compete with the Phoenix area for future Final Fours.
But Gallego insisted that Phoenix is truly a basketball city, something underscored by a second Final Four.
“Final Fours are very special because Phoenix is a basketball city,” she said. “From the Phoenix Suns to our amazing NCAA teams, the Phoenix Mercury and more. We love basketball and we do it well.
“You’re going to see basketball take over the city streets.”