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Executive director discusses the Valley’s massive task of hosting first Final Four

LISTEN: Dawn Rogers, Final Four executive director

There is still a lot of college basketball to be played before this year’s Final Four participants are determined.

What we do know is the Final Four will be held in Arizona for the first time. University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale will transform into a basketball mecca to host the last four teams standing in the NCAA Tournament starting Saturday, Apr. 1.

As teams around the country work on their own tournament résumés, Final Four executive director and CEO Dawn Rogers is overseeing this massive sports entertainment project.

“This is a collaboration across the Valley,” Rogers told Doug and Wolf Wednesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM during Newsmakers Week. “My job is to put all the different pieces together. To put a great team of people together and make sure the NCAA has everything they need. The men’s basketball committee has been here a couple of times, which has really been fantastic.”

Of course, the four teams on the court are the focal point of the event, but there is so much more involved in the Final Four experience, as Rogers explained.

“If you’re fortunate enough to have a ticket, it’s a great atmosphere. Saturday night, to me, is one of the greatest championship-type events in college athletics,” Rogers said. “But if you don’t have a ticket, there are so many other events that come into town. There is a three-day music festival at Margaret T. Hance Park.

“Then, there’s Fan Fest downtown at the Phoenix Convention Center. That’s four days of great family fun with all different kinds of activities.”

The Phoenix-metro area will be a big winner economically from the boost thousands of fans flocking to town for the four-day event will bring. In fact, the final numbers should be comparable to what another collegiate championship brought to the Valley recently.

“I would liken it really closely to the (College Football Playoff championship) game, which announced a $278 million economic impact,” Rogers said. “We’ll do the same study. We’ll also look at impressions, as well, for this event. But you have fans coming in for a four-day stay, we have about 71,000 ticketed fans Saturday and Monday in the stadium.

“I think we’ll be in upwards of the same number CFP announced.”

The College Football Playoff championship game was played in Glendale in January of 2016. The game between Alabama and Clemson marked the third time University of Phoenix Stadium had hosted college football’s championship game, dating back to the BCS era.

So how does Phoenix get its hands on another Final Four?

“One of the things we talk about regularly is that you only get one chance to make a first impression. We’re very excited to host this and we want to have it back, so we need flawless execution,” Rogers said. “We need to really impress the men’s basketball committee, the men’s basketball fans that come in and the four institutions — their voices are very important. The student athlete experience, what do they experience from the moment they get off the plane in our beautiful state?

“We’re spending a lot of time on that to make sure it’s an unbelievable experience.”

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