Basketball central: Prepping UD Arena for high school, NCAA sprint a ‘huge’ task

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the district, state and NCAA basketball tournaments arriving at University of Dayton Arena each year, but there’s also a lot of work to prepare the venue for each competition.

UD Arena is in the midst of a staggering 40 events in 19 days, according to Scott DeBolt, senior associate athletics director and executive director of UD Arena.

That includes 10 Southwest District high school basketball finals, the 12 semifinals and championship games of the Ohio High School Athletic Association girls state tournament, the NCAA men’s basketball First Four, and the 12 OHSAA boys state tournament games, DeBolt said.

“We’ve got a lot of people that help out throughout this,” he said of the 50 to 60 people who help the arena transition both to and from the NCAA First Four. “We go through a couple of different changeovers.”

DeBolt said the beauty of having the OHSAA events bookending the First Four is the ability to use some of the same setups for the First Four for the state tournaments.

One example, he said, is the media room. “They’re going to sit at the same stage and press conference room as the players will during the First Four,” DeBolt said. “With the carpeted space and the lights and all that, so it’s kind of a unique experience for those student-athletes at that level to experience.”

Having hosted the Southwest District finals last week and a University of Dayton admitted students event on Sunday, the arena had just three days to get ready for OHSAA girls state championships, which run from today through Saturday.

“Today, we started adding those additional media row seats that we had for the first row and putting that together for the girls tournament, the First Four and then the boys tournament,” DeBolt said Monday. “The next three days is kind of our transition into (the setup) that will stay in from the 9th (of March) through the 19th.”

Much of that involved setting up media press conference areas and additional media seating, ensuring that the floor benches are on the correct side and posting the proper signage, he said.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

On the NCAA’s Selection Sunday, volunteers and staff will handle the first of two major transition days as UD Arena gears up for hosting eight NCAA men’s basketball teams for open practices on Monday and Tuesday, followed by First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

“We’ll start early in the morning (Sunday),” DeBolt said. “We’ll take out our Dayton Flyers basketball court and we’ll bring in the NCAA March Madness basketball court and put that in during the day and change out all the signage.”

During the First Four, more than 400 people work in or around the arena, “from out in the parking lots to inside the concession stands to cleaning,” he said.

“It’s a big operation,” DeBolt said.

On Thursday, March 17, the arena must change it all back for the 12 boys high school basketball state semifinals and finals, which are set to be played March 17, 18 and 19.

Sarah Spees, director of the Big Hoopla Local Organizing Committee for the First Four said what impresses her most about the switchover between competitions is the amount of volunteers and workers that work diligently to get the arena looking “amazing” for the OHSAA tournaments and then completely transitioning it over to NCAA.

“They all have different regulations and rules that they have to follow and for how the arena looks, and ... the public would never know how much hard work goes into that,” said Spees, who is also business development-project manager at Dayton Development Coalition.

Because the OHSAA tournaments are broadcast via livestream, it helps give UD Arena additional exposure, DeBolt said.

“When we looked into this a few years ago, and were fortunate to get it, we knew it was going to be a big undertaking, but we do this day-in, day-out from November through March,” he said. “Just adding a few more games and getting them in there is ... it’s what we do and it’s huge.”

UD Arena’s 11-day basketball fast break

Today — 4 girls state semifinals

Friday — 4 girls state semifinals

Saturday — 4 girls state title games

Monday — NCAA First Four team practices

Tuesday — 2 NCAA First Four games

Wednesday — 2 NCAA First Four games

Fri, March 17 — 4 boys state semifinals

Sat, March 18 — 4 boys state semifinals

Sun, March 19 — 4 boys state title games

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