The eight cities named as potential Final Four hosts from 2017-2020 feature five familiar domes. Fortunately, there’s a trio of new venues in the mix.
Of the eight finalists, Phoenix is the only city not to have previously hosted a Final Four, but the Minneapolis bid includes the new Vikings stadium, set to open in 2016, and the Atlanta bid aces out the Georgia Dome in favor of the new Falcons Stadium, planned for 2017. Still, the regions named have combined to host 24 previous men’s Final Fours, plus the tournament this year and next.
Here’s a rundown of the eight prospective hosts, half of which will end up hosting the three-game set.
• Atlanta: Last year’s host and the host in 1977, 2002 and 2007 won’t be offering up the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome, instead giving the selection committee a look at the new Falcons Stadium. The retractable roof venue will expand to hold 75,000 in time for the 2017 football season, meaning Atlanta is in contention for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 Final Fours.
• Indianapolis: Already host to the Final Four six times (1980, 1991, 1997, 2000, 2006 and 2010), with the most recent occurrence inside the 67,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium, a favorite city of selection committees the nation over again offers up its retractable-roof venue for the big event. Home to the Colts, Lucas Oil’s steel-rail roof closes off and converts into a non-football facility most of the year, which we’ll see when it hosts the Final Four in 2015.
• Minneapolis: With previous hosting experience only in 1992 and 2001, this bid includes the planned 65,000-seat Vikings Stadium. The fully enclosed stadium -- with no retractable roof -- will likely open in 2016 and offer a new-look venue with a transparent roof and angular seating arrangement designed to host more than football.
• New Orleans: With past hosting dates in 1982, 1987, 1993, 2003 and 2012m the 72,000-seat Superdome that we’ve all grown quite familiar with is back in the mix for another Final Four.
• North Texas: Dallas hosted the Final Four in 1986, and we’ll see how AT&T Stadium, home to the Cowboys west of Dallas, fares this April when it hosts its first Final Four. Lacking rave reviews from the 2011 Super Bowl, this retractable-roof venue that can seat 80,000 will have a chance to give the NCAA something to think about if it can pull this year’s Final Four off in style.
• Phoenix/Glendale: The only city in the mix to have never hosted a Final Four, the 63,000-seat University of Phoenix Stadium, with its retractable roof and grass that slides into the sunshine, is in the running. The stadium also serves as the only proposed venue in the West.
• San Antonio: We’ve seen the Final Four in San Antonio in 1998, 2004 and 2008, but the second Texas city on the list gives us the 72,000-seat Alamodome for one of the four tournaments.
• St. Louis: The city last hosted a Final Four in 2005, with its only two other hosting opportunities coming in 1973 and 1978. The Edward Jones Dome, home of the Rams since 1995, seats 66,000 and gives the host committee another Midwest city to choose from.
Along with AT&T Stadium hosting the 2014 event and Lucas Oil Stadium in 2015, Houston’s Reliant Stadium will handle 2016.
In order to qualify as a Final Four host site, the venue must hold at least 60,000 fans and the city or region must have at least 10,000 full-service hotel rooms “within reasonable proximity to the competition venue.”
Bid committees have until May to finalize their bid packets, with the NCAA visiting each finalist city in August, September or October. Expect the announcement of the four winning cities in early November. Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.