SAN ANTONIO – March Madness is back in San Antonio and along with it a sense of normalcy.
“This tournament feels normal again. We’ve got fans in the stands. The AT&T center will be rocking on Thursday,” said Jenny Carnes, executive director of San Antonio Local Organizing Committee.
This week, the AT&T Center is hosting the 2022 Men’s South Regional with Arizona, Houston, Michigan and Villanova vying for a spot in this year’s Final Four.
“It’s a great lineup of four teams, from a No. 1 seed to two teams that played in the Men’s Final Four Championship game in 2018 with Villanova and Michigan,” Carnes said.
The city of San Antonio is no stranger to hosting NCAA tournament games.
The Alamo City has hosted multiple men’s and women’s NCAA Final Fours and regional tournaments, thanks in large part to San Antonio Sports working with city leaders and local universities. Another men’s final four will be held in San Antonio in 2025.
Last year, the city and the surrounding area hosted the entire women’s tournament under strict COVID protocols and limited fan capacity. That’s not case this year.
“Everything’s back to normal here in San Antonio, the state of Texas and at the AT&T center, so no COVID protocols to be aware of,” Carnes said. “We err on the side of caution, but whatever you’re comfortable with come and enjoy some great basketball.”
Unlike year’s past, this year’s regional will be played at the home of the Spurs instead of the Alamodome. Carnes said the NCAA changed their policy years ago that preliminary rounds would no longer be played in football or larger stadiums.
“They moved toward playing in NBA arenas and in smaller arenas. This will be our third event to do the AT&T Center. We hosted the first and second round back in 2014 and a women’s regional in 2006. So we’re used to doing the Final Fours at the Alamodome, but it’ll be nice to be in a more intimate setting for a sellout crowd, hopefully on Thursday.”
Despite the games being played at the AT&T Center, it still means big business for downtown San Antonio. Many restaurants and hotels will be filled with fans from visiting universities, cheer teams and pep bands from Thursday to Saturday.
“We anticipate about $10 million of economic impact in visitor spending and probably 15,000-plus hotel room nights that are fulfilled in downtown San Antonio, which is a great thing coming off a pandemic,” Carnes said.
Carnes said with this lineup of teams, there’s also been a level of local interest in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games. It’s been a win on-and-off the court for the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee.
“We hope it’s a really good balance of the fan base. Ticket sales have gone great,” Carnes said. “Everybody that’s coming in for the tournament will enjoy the best that downtown offers. There’s no better place to host the NCAA Championship than in San Antonio.”