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Published: Friday, February 14, 2020 @ 12:00 AM
DAYTON — Community officials gathered in the Oregon Historic District in Dayton Jan. 31 to announce the Big Hoopla’s free Family Celebration Festival to precede Dayton hosting the First Four games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Leaders from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the city of Dayton, Dayton Development Coalition, Downtown Dayton Partnership, Jobs Ohio, Hometown Heroes and several other organizations were on hand to discuss the March 15 event, with members of the Big Hoopla to discuss their partnership.
The Big Hoopla is a nonprofit corporation that organizes all activities for the Dayton community in and around the NCAA First Four and the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, and enlists support from small and large business, academia, government, civic and community organizations.
This partnership has enabled Dayton to host the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament games for 18 consecutive years. This year, the University of Dayton Arena hosts those games March 17-18.
The events begin with a free family festival March 15, which coincides with the date teams are selected for the tournament.
The festival will close off parts of Fifth Street in the Oregon District and include:
• A tented basketball court and viewing area to help fans keep up with the sports news of the day;
• The Hoopla Four Miler road race;
• Big Hoopla Stem Challenge and hot-shot basketball contest with prizes given away for every shot made, at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School for boys and girls, grades K-8;
• A half-court basketball area to practice free throws, grab a pick-up game and enjoy family one-on-one challenges;
• Family activities along Fifth Street.
This festival marks the beginning of several days of increased numbers of visitors to the region when players, coaches, families and fans begin arriving for the games, which bring media attention, capacity crowds and television viewers in the millions to showcase the Dayton area.
“Every year, the Big Hoopla shines a light on Dayton and lets our community share our passion and enthusiasm for basketball with the world,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge. “No other facility in the country has hosted more tournament basketball games than the University of Dayton Arena, which will now get to show off its renovations to thousands of new visitors.
“The opening round games provide a unique opportunity to give our region a national spotlight and have an economic impact of $4.5 million each year in spending at local restaurants, hotels and shopping,” Dodge added.
The Air Force will have a strong presence at the games thanks to the Hometown Heroes program, which provides complimentary tickets to Airmen and their families to events around the region.
“On behalf of the men and women of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, we are honored to have the opportunity to share in this event with you,” said Col. Thomas S. Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander. “It speaks to something that we believe to our core, and that is Wright-Patterson is the community and the community is Wright-Patterson. Few things showcase that more than the amazing effort and outpouring of support from the Hometown Heroes program.”
The Hometown Heroes program has donated nearly 45,000 tickets to local events to Airmen veterans and local students since 2012.
“When you think about what Hometown Heroes has done for us, for the men and women who call Wright-Patterson home on assignment, to the Airmen who have made the Miami Valley their homes forever, it exposes our Airmen to culture, arts, and athletics all throughout this great region, and gives them an opportunity to be so much more integrated with the people that care for and love them so much, surrounding Wright-Patterson,” said Sherman.
Those community ties will continue at halftime, he added, which will feature a swearing-in ceremony for newly enlisted Airmen. The Hometown Heroes program started in 2004 with the Dayton Dragons and a partnership with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said Jeff Hoagland president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition.
“The program actually took a life of its own, as the Dragons program was really growing, and there it expanded to other aspects of our community outside of baseball, to include the Victoria Theater Association, University of Dayton Supports, the Dayton Art Institute, to the Fraze Pavilion and the Levitt Pavilion,” said Hoagland. “It’s a way for the communities of Dayton and Wright-Patterson to come together and just a way for us as the community to come together and a way for us to thank Wright-Patt for everything they do for this region.”