Final Four in Phoenix will be first in West since 1995

PHOENIX (AP) The road to the Phoenix Final Four was partially paved in Texas.

The 2014 Final Four in Dallas-Fort Worth served as a catalyst for college basketball's premier event to be spread across a large area, not just in one centralized location. The games were held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the fan fest and most of the lodging were in downtown Dallas, and the whole thing worked.

Phoenix's proposal featured a similar setup, the games to be played in Glendale, the fan fest in downtown Phoenix, the bulk of lodging in both Phoenix and Scottsdale.

The Valley of the Sun was already a front-runner when future Final Four sites were announced in 2014, but the success in Texas helped push it over the top.

''Logistically, Phoenix is similar to other Final Four sites that we have managed; north Texas, Houston (2011) to a certain degree,'' said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. ''Transportation, movement of folks, we've had those learnings that we can use for Phoenix.''

The decision to bring the Final Four to Phoenix ends a 21-year western drought.

The West has had its share of regionals in recent years: West finals in Southern California in 2011 and from 2013-15, Phoenix from 2008-09 and in 2012, San Jose in 2008.

But the last time the Final Four was held in the West was Seattle in 1995. Indianapolis has hosted the Final Four five times in that span, Atlanta and San Antonio three times, two other cities twice each. The closest the Final Four came to being in the West since 1995 was San Antonio in 1998, 2004 and 2008.

''It's a national tournament so it needs to be represented in a national way,'' said Mark Hollis, chair of the NCAA's Division I men's basketball committee. ''It's not necessarily why Phoenix was chosen. It was chosen because of Phoenix's ability to host major events, Super Bowls, College Football Playoffs. It was chosen on merit, but the fact that it was out West helps that process that it's a national tournament.''

Phoenix's growing reputation as a big-event host was a big help.

The Valley of the Sun has been home to numerous sporting events through the years: the 1996 Super Bowl, college football bowl games, the Phoenix Open, NASCAR and IndyCar, baseball spring training.

Over the past few years, Phoenix has become a go-to place for major events.

The area made some initial big-ticket marks with the Super Bowl in 2008 and the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Phoenix is currently on a major major-event run with the 2015 Super Bowl, the 2016 College Football Playoff title game and 2017 Final Four all in succession.

''It's just an outstanding destination,'' Hollis said. ''Phoenix has proven it can handle big events.''

In past Final Fours, many of the coaches, administrators and other officials would often leave their families at home.

Phoenix will offer a chance to tack on vacation before or after the games. The weather in March should be close to perfect - even better than for the Super Bowl and CFP - and comes at a time when some students will be on spring break.

The Valley also offers a wide variety of other activities not affiliated with the games, including golf, hiking and the start of the baseball season will coincide with the Final Four. The Grand Canyon is a few hours away and the red rocks of Sedona are even closer.

''For those folks that live in the Northeast, the Midwest and the upper Northwest, to come here is such a spectacular time of the year, guaranteed good weather, plenty of activity. It's absolutely great,'' Gavitt said. ''Anecdotally, we're hearing from members that they're coming early or staying after the championship game to go sightseeing. People want to stay and enjoy what the area has to offer.''

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