Final Four 2017 in Arizona Saturday: Traffic and beer problems – AZCentral.com
Fans arrive early for the festivities before the Final Four games Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Patrick Breen/azcentral)
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
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
The court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral
The massive scoreboard known as âColussus TVâ is installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for the upcoming NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azentral.com
Mark Hubler, emergency manager for Glendale, talks about the Final Four on Feb. 28, 2017, in the Emergency Operation Center, Glendale.
The Final Four is on in Arizona. Whoâs here? Whatâs happening? Check back for frequent updates on the scene at the stadium, the Fan Fest and the March Madness Music Festival. Click here for a recap of all that happened Friday.
What’s on the schedule Saturday
Wondering what’s going on? Here’s everything Final Four happening Saturday.Â Click here for more information on the events, parking and transportation.
4:50 p.m.: A momentary tieÂ
A group of South Carolina fans went crazy when the team momentarily tied up the game against Gonzaga, with many shouting, jumping and cheering in excitement.
4:30 p.m.: Plan for shuttle backups
Phoenix Public Transit Department spokeswoman Brenda Yanez said there was a high demand for the free shuttle before the first game began. More shuttles were dispatched to the area. Yanez urged riders before the next game to make sure they are at the shuttle stops early. The shuttle stops every 30 minutes.
Yanez said if riders begin to see backups again, they should either tweet their complaints to Phoenix Public Transit at @PhoenixMetroBus or call them at 602-253-5000.
“Right now, as demand increases more buses are being dispatched,” she said. Some people posted that they had to wait for an hour.
3:50 p.m.: I-10 traffic backed up due to crash
A crash on Interstate 10 was blockingÂ multiple lanes, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Traffic was backed up for two miles at about 3:50 p.m.Â on Interstate 10 westbound at Jefferson Street. Arizona Department of Transportation encouraged driversÂ to use alternate routes, including State route 143 or Interstate 17.
3:45 p.m.: “Black-ish” star at Fan Fest
One of the adorable kids from ABC’s “Black-ish” was spotted having fun at the Final Four Fan Fest in downtown Phoenix Saturday.
Miles Brown, who plays upbeat Jack Johnson on the show, took turns during a free-throw contest and celebrated when his team won.
He also posted a photo from the festivities, and tweeted a photo from the 360-degree Capital One Cam with the caption “Breaking my dad’s ankles!!”
3:30 p.m.: No alcohol in the stadium?!
Shortly before and after tip-off, fans began realizing there seemed to be no beer, wine or spirits for sale in the University of Phoenix Stadium for the games.
One woman remarked that she’d pay up to $12 for a cold beer, but there were none in sight.
The RepublicÂ contacted the NCAA for comment but did not immediately hear back. The University of Phoenix Stadium website does not mention alcohol sales.
Instead, attendees opted forÂ taco bowls, tamales, burgers and pizzaÂ â for a price. Brett Michael, an Oregon fan from Omaha, stood in line to buy $8 nachos, though it was obvious this wasnât his first stop. He held a cardboard box holding a burrito, soft pretzel withÂ nacho cheese and a soda. The price? $18.
3 p.m.: Get in place to watch the game
McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon was the “home of the Zags,” but few Gonzaga fans were in the bar when the day’s first game tipped off. Most Gonzaga fans in town spent the morning here, then made the short walk to University of Phoenix Stadium to see their team play in its first-ever Final Four.
By tip-off, a pack of Oregon fans had taken over a wing of the bar. That left a few scattered Gonzaga fans, with painted faces little Bulldog stickers on their cheeks, to scatter throughout.
“You don’t have to go to the game to feel the camaraderie,” said Ricardo Gomez, who flew in with his wife from Colorado to watch the game in a bar outside the stadium. Their son, Derrick, graduated from Gonzaga a few years ago. He flew in from Seattle.
Neither Ricardo nor his wife went to Gonzaga. “But I paid for him to go there,” he said, pointing at Derrick. “Does that count?”
But they still covered their bodies with the Zags.Â Gonzaga T-shirts, Gonzaga sweatshirts. A little Bulldog sticker on his wife’s face. Ricardo’s own face painted entirely blue and red. “GU” painted on his hands.
Whenever a Gonzaga shot went up, the whole family threw their hands in the air. If it hit net, they were the loudest cheers in the bar.
2:30 p.m.: Music festival day two begins
Fans began trickling in to the free March Madness Music Festival after doors opened at 2 p.m. Phoenix band El West took the stage at about 2:30 p.m. while festival-goers basked in weather in the low 70s.
2:15 p.m.: Fans ogle the trophy at the Fan Fest
Packed with a basketball court to shoot three-pointers, jerseys from every teamÂ and endless photo opportunities, the Fan Zone is a must at the Final Four Fan Fest.
The ultimate attraction to the zone Saturday afternoon wasÂ the official championship trophy. Lines were constant in front of the trophy’s glassÂ case.Â No one could resist seeing the trophy that will ultimately be awarded to one team Monday night.
In another corner of the Fan Fast,Â Grand Canyon University’s Cheer and Dance team provided a workshop for kids of all ages to learn basics of cheerleading and dance.
Three dancers and three cheerleaders showed boys and girls different jumps, twirls and GCU’s own personal cheersÂ while proudly sporting GCU’s colors ofÂ purple and white.
1:45 p.m.: ASU’s 942 Crew shows upÂ
Executive board members of Arizona State University’s 942 Crew, the students behind the infamous “Curtain of Distraction,”Â waited just outside the court area. Crew member Quinton Brown said they’re volunteers who’ll hold up the flags during the national anthem Saturday afternoon.
Benji Cabrera, another crew member, said their adviser is in talks with a producer to bring theÂ Curtain of DistractionÂ into Monday’s pre-game show. Cabrera said it’s about injecting some ASU flair into the event since it’s in the Phoenix area. Quinton said “nothing is official yet” but that they expect to be out there in full force come Monday.
The 942 Crew isn’t the only group representing ASU. Rows of folding chairs lined both ends of the court, where students from the Final Four schools will cheer on their respective teams. Cabrera said not every school brought enough students to fill every seat, and so approximately 400 ASU students volunteered to occupy the empty ones.
1 p.m.: Stadium gates openÂ
An army of staff lining the University of Phoenix Stadium gates opened the doors a little early to streams of excited ticket holders. Fans shouted praise toÂ strangers whose only similarity was the team on their shirt.
Some lined up at the many booths selling NCAA apparel before entering the stadium. Like most items sold in orÂ near the stadium, the clothing fetchedÂ a high price:Â A T-shirt wasÂ $30 and a hat wasÂ $32, but someÂ people were more than willing to openÂ up their wallets for the memorabilia.
A merchandise truck outside the stadium also was a hot spot.Â People stood in lines 25 people long, waiting for four cashiers to acknowledge them. There, hats were $30, T-shirts were $55, flags were $30, and a customized Final Four coffee mug was $18. It all sold faster than the cashiers could keep up.
Official merchandise came in the colors of all four teams, but most fans chose generic Final Four-branded gear. That way they could always wear the T-shirt, even if their team lost.
Outside the stadium, Arizona Department of Public Safety officials searched for anything unusual within the passing crowds. One group hadÂ a “tactical canine” named Nico at their side to deal with any threats, including bombs.
Detective Tate Headley said they haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary yet and that teams were stationed both inside and outside the stadium to assist other law-enforcement organizations.
12:30 p.m.: The market’s down for scalpersÂ
He had his Oregon pullover, a pocket full of tickets and the sign he’d made for 48 straight Final Fours: “I need tickets.”
“Tickets! Tickets!” the scalper, who declined to give his name, yelled as people walked past. The plan was to come out to this corner, outside Saddle Ranch restaurant in Westgate in Glendale, every day this weekend. But the market was down.
Three hours before the first game tipped off, tickets to Saturday’s national semifinals were available for $250. Lower-level seats started at $400, but were usually negotiated down from there.
Three-game passes, which include both Saturday games and the Monday national championship game, have a face value of $200. But Final Four tickets are always in demand, and prices online and outside the stadiums can often run near $1,000.
This year, a lack of hometown influence âÂ none of the four finalists hasÂ a campusÂ within 1,200 miles of Phoenix âÂ and the city’s location away from most college basketball hotbeds had pushed prices down.
“Got any extras?” he asked. “I’ve got extras.”
A man in a red Gonzaga T-shirt stopped. “You selling? I need two.”
“Four hundred,” the scalper told him. Always start high.
“Lower?” the man asked, hoping for closerÂ seats.
“Seven a piece,” he said, but there was no deal. The Gonzaga fan walked away. The scalper walked back to his corner and held up his sign.
12:15 p.m.: Fans meet Cedric Ceballos
Those who have followed basketball for some time may remember the Phoenix Suns player who was here in the Valley for four years. From 1990 until 1994, Cedric Ceballos played as a small forward and helped the Suns go to the NBA Finals in 1993.
For the basketball fanatics who came to the Final Four Fan Fest, they were not only able to meet Ceballos, but take a picture with him and take an autograph home. Some fans brought basketballs to be signed, while others got a picture of him from his time here in the Valley of the Sun.
Ceballos was excited to be a part of the Fan Fest, saying, “You get out here to meet the fans and reminisce while everyone tells me stories from when I played here. That’s what’s really great.”
Noon: Native American Basketball Invitational scrimmage
The Native American Basketball Invitational hosted a girls’ basketball scrimmage at the Buick Arena in the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday morning. The Ak-Chin Indian Community team battled the Gila River Indian Community team.
‘It gives a lot of light on kids who are passionate,”Â said Percynda Jim, who came to watch the game with her family and said she was pleased to see an all-Native American basketball association. ‘It gives them a goal to work towards.”
Warming up, the girls sported T-shirts with “Equality”Â written on them. For the game, they switched to either white or black NABI jerseys. Courtside, young cheerleaders from the Tohono O’Oodham Nation’s Native All-Stars Cheer team waved their pom-poms in support of both teams.
The Ak-Chin Language Group performed the national anthemÂ prior to the scrimmage.
Morning: Surprise free tickets for ASU students
Some Arizona State University students were able to get a ticket to the Final Four for free.
Students received emails informing them of the offer and a link to a website. Once they registered, students received a notification telling them to enter a designated student entrance at the University of Phoenix Stadium hours before the scheduled tip-off.
Some students were suspicious of the offer because the games are held on April Fool’s Day.
A spokesperson for the Final Four, Kyle Hedstrom, confirmedÂ that the emails were legitimate. HedstromÂ said in an email that ASU used the sundevils.wufoo website to distribute tickets.
The tickets, Hedstrom said,Â were from the unused allotment from the University of North Carolina and Oregon. The organizing committee, he said, left it to Arizona State to help fill the unused seats.
Available tickets were already distributed by Thursday afternoon.
Saturday morning: It’s game day!
University of Phoenix Stadium is gearing up for as many as 76,000Â people to fill the stadium Saturday afternoon for its first Final Four games.
A typical basketball arena seats about 20,000 orÂ fewer. But the venues have balloonedÂ along with the frenzy surrounding March Madness. Here, that means the cheap seats are about as far as possible from the basketball court, while the best seats are going for more than $7,000 on StubHub.
MORE:Â Â Map of the downtown Phoenix events
TV schedule for Saturday
TV schedule for Monday
Semifinal winners, 6:19 p.m., Channel 5Â (Play-by-play:Â Jim Nantz. Analysts:Â Bill Raftery,Â Grant Hill. Reporter:Â Tracy Wolfson).
Compiled by Arizona Republic reporter Kaila White from reports by Republic reportersÂ Conner Borgelt, Alden Woods, Richard Ruelas and Perry Vandell.Â