DAYTON — With 28 games scheduled over an 11-day period, the University of Dayton Arena is about to become one of the busiest places in the region in the coming days.
Three different tournaments will play inside UD Arena during the timeframe, including the return of the First Four. The return of the NCAA’s first games in the men’s basketball tournament will be the first time since 2019 and the first since the university finished a three-phase renovation, which was completed at the start of the 2019 season.
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The 2020 NCAA tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 tournament was played in a “bubble” with the games scheduled across sites in Indiana.
But with the First Four returning, the next 11 days marks an opportunity for UD and Arena staff to fully show off the new features in UD Arena for those who might not necessarily follow the Dayton Flyers.
“The attention that comes with the NCAA Tournament tipping off here we’re excited. We built this building, this was built for basketball, it was renovated for basketball,” Neil Sullivan, UD Athletic Director told News Center 7′s James Rider.
The three-phase renovation, which started in 2017, was planned in part to keep Dayton as a leader in keeping the First Four in the Miami Valley. UD officials met with the NCAA during the planning phases of the renovation to pinpoint improvements needed.
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“(The NCAA) gave us nine items, we did all nine of those during the renovation. Now we haven’t been able to use them and show them off to them yet. They’ve been here for a men’s game during the regular season but they haven’t seen them around the First Four. We’re really excited about that, they’re really excited about that,” Scott DeBolt, Executive Director of UD Arena said.
But with both the boys and girls Ohio High School Athletic Association basketball tournaments coming up on either side of the First Four, UD Arena crews will have a lot of work ahead getting the building ready for each event. Crews were preparing the Arena for the girls basketball tournament which will wrap-up Saturday. But they’ll have a quick turnaround to get the building ready for the First Four, which gets underway Monday night with the first team practices.
After the final First Four game Wednesday night, arena crews will be right back at it, getting the building ready to host the boys high school tournament.
“Their ability to execute under pressure is what differentiates this building. We are able to do quick turns. We are able to bring in different floors in do stuff, people work overnight. We have an exceptional staff, I wouldn’t trade ‘em. They’re going to be in for it for the next couple weeks,” Sullivan said.
UD estimates around 100,000 different people will come to watch one of the 28 games in 11 days.
“The men’s championship Sunday. we could potentially have four crowds of over 10,000 people so that’s 40,000 people through our building and most of those are unique visitors,” DeBolt said.
But for new visitors to UD Arena Sullivan said to expect to walk away talking about the unique gameday atmosphere inside the renovated building.
“We are really a basketball only facility. A lot of times when fans come, that’ll be exciting with the high school, they come and they’re like ‘I’ve heard about this’ but until you actually see it. They get really excited. We like to see people’s face and reaction for the first time.”
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