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#STINGDAILY: Method To The Madness

Feb. 5, 2013

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

College basketball players and coaches will tell you that getting to the Final Four requires hours of practice and hard work and still requires, a call or two going in your favor — the latter something usually beyond his or her control.

Georgia Tech students and fans have it easier. They can get to the 2013 Final Four with a Breeze Card and be part of it with just a couple of clicks.

This year’s event, celebrating the 75th Anniversary of March Madness, will take place in Atlanta from April 5 through 8. It’s the first time Atlanta’s hosted since 2007 and is expected to be bigger and better.

“We’re expecting 100,000 people to be in for the weekend and that’s probably 80,000 out-of-town guests and 20,000 or so Atlantans who will come down and participate,” said Sharon Goldmacher president of communications 21® and the executive director of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee (ALOC). “There is a whole weekend of activities. So if you don’t have a ticket, it’s not a problem. You can completely join in the basketball hoopla and excitement.”

This year’s Final Four Weekend will be the first in which Divisions I, II and III will all conclude their championship tournaments in the same city on the same weekend.

Of course, tickets will be required for the D-I semifinals on Saturday as well as Monday night’s championship game, but, while Georgia Tech is the host school, the Georgia Tech ticket office won’t be of help in getting tickets to those games.

But fans wanting tickets to either of the semifinals might have a better chance of getting them, as the NCAA will be divvying up student section seats differently this year. Tickets for the student sections will be divided in half, primarily for fans of the two schools playing in the each game, instead of simply splitting tickets in fourths for fans of all four Final Four participants. When the first game ends, the student sections will be cleared and fans of the other two teams will be ushered in.

While the D-I semifinals on Saturday and Monday’s Championship Game at the Georgia Dome, are the showcase events, they’re not the only events taking place over the weekend.

For basketball fans that just like to see the action, the D-II and D-III games will be taking place at Philips Arena on Sunday, with the D-III game starting at 12:30 p.m. and the D-II game following at 4:00. Tickets are not required, so fans are welcome to walk up and catch some exciting championship-level college basketball.

A theme throughout the weekend is the 75th anniversary of March Madness and there will be numerous activities and events. Many of them will take place in Bracket Town, sponsored by Coca-Cola ZeroTM. Bracket Town — known as “Hoop City” in 2007, the last time the Final Four was in Atlanta — will be located at the Georgia World Congress Center and feature exhibits commemorating every Final Four, including appearances by stars of Final Fours past. This time around, it also will recognize other NCAA Sports.

“It’s much more exciting than Hoop City because it’s much more than just basketball,” said Goldmacher. “It’s over 300,000 square feet of all 89 championships represented inside [the GWCC]. So if you want to kick a soccer ball, hit a hockey puck, fence or dunk a basketball you can do all that within Bracket Town. That’s a low-cost ticket right now and I think there’s student pricing at the door. It’s a lot of fun.”

Bracket Town will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Sunday and Monday, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

It’s easily accessible and easily affordable, as tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for kids. They’re even more affordable between today and March 18, the Monday following Selection Sunday, as there’s a $2 discount per ticket.

Among the basketball-related activities are a Legends Game and 3-on-3 tournaments for men and women, boys and girls, with teams ranging from 9-11 to 35-and-up. There also will be youth clinics be held on Saturday.

For hoops junkies that are into team preparation, Reese’s® Final Four Friday® allows fans to catch glimpses of all four teams’ practices. Beginning at noon, each team will hold an hour-long open practice on the Georgia Dome floor. Then, at 5:07 p.m., there’s the Reese’s College All-Star Game, featuring some of the top players in D-I.

Saturday will start off with the Road to the Final Four 5K race. Presented by Northwestern Mutual the race begins at 7:30 a.m. Participants will be required to register then later there will be youth clinics. For a complete schedule of activities click here.

The party doesn’t end when Bracket Town closes. Centennial Park will be rocking all weekend long, thanks to the Big Dance® Concert Series, a three-day music festival. The concerts are sponsored by AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One, and the headliners will be announced in the coming days. It’s a big deal, as last year’s performers included The Black Keys, Jimmy Buffett and Kiss.

The timing of the semifinals have been taken into account, and hoops fans won’t miss any action on Saturday, as Coke, that day’s sponsor, will sponsor the broadcast of the first game in the park on a big screen. At the conclusion of the first game, the main act will take the stage.

With all these events, there will be plenty of opportunities for those looking to offer a helping hand.

“We need volunteers for the Big Dance. So if Tech students are into music and they want to hang out all day and do a little volunteering but also take in all the great concerts they can do that,” said Goldmacher. “We also need volunteers at Bracket Town. Lots of different positions are available within Bracket Town. Everything from working in a booth to helping at an activity station. They might work at a basketball station or at one of the others, for one of the corporate partners. We need greeters and all kinds of positions that if they want to be in the heart of downtown and be in the action, there’s lots of options available.”

For more information on where, when and how to volunteer visit www.volunteerfinalfouratl.com.

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