Here's what to know about going downtown for the tournament Thursday

Fans make their way to Intrust Bank Arena to watch the teams practice for the NCAA Tournament for free on Wednesday. (March 14, 2018)
Fans make their way to Intrust Bank Arena to watch the teams practice for the NCAA Tournament for free on Wednesday. (March 14, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

Downtown is hopping right now, as thousands of visitors have descended upon Wichita for the busiest day of NCAA festivities here.

There's a few things to know going into Thursday:

Pep rallies/fan events

There are a few special fan events scheduled for Thursday:

  • Kansas pre-game party and pep rally, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Thurs., Brick + Mortar, 229 S. Emporia

The party starts at 9 a.m. inside Brick + Mortar's glass tent on Emporia, and KU's cheerleaders, band and mascots will start the pep rally at 11 a.m. Food and beverages are available for purchase, and Rally House will sell KU merchandise. Free admission.

  • Houston pre-game party, 4-6 p.m. Thurs., Rock Island Live, 101 N. Rock Island

Wichita State fans have a standing invitation from this fellow American Athletic Conference school. The party will cost $20 to attend, but appetizers and two drink tickets are built into the cost of admission.

  • San Diego State pre-game party, 3-5 p.m. Thurs., Public at the Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island

San Diego State and Wichita State have floated the idea of a #ShockersAztecsAlliance, wherein fans from Wichita cheer on San Diego State here and fans from San Diego cheer on Wichita State there on Friday. Free hors d'ouevres while they last and a cash bar.

Then, of course, all of the other fan events will be going on as planned. All are free unless otherwise noted (food and beverages cost):

VW Downtown NCAA map online 030718-01.jpg
A map of NCAA events downtown this week. Visit Wichita Courtesy

1) Fan Fest, St. Francis between the arena and Douglas Avenue. Opens two hours prior to tipoff Thursday and runs all day. Sponsored by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission.

What you’ll find: Large-screen televisions showing the games, seating areas, beer garden, basketball arcade games, live DJ, food trucks

2) Cox FanZone at Lou's Place, 220 S. Commerce, 9 a.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.

What you'll find: Virtual reality slam dunk game, DJ, giant Jenga, corn hole, food and drinks on Lou's Place patio

3) Courtside on Commerce Street — The Alley to Excitement, Commerce Street between Waterman and Kellogg. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thurs., 4-10 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.

What you'll find: Pop-up cocktail bars, craft beers, yard games, live DJs, food trucks, vendor market. Open to all ages and dog-friendly. Sponsored by Xclusive Events.

4) Bracket Bash, Waterman and St. Francis across the street from Intrust Bank Arena, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.

What you’ll find: Large-screen televisions showing the games, Skee-Ball and Pop-a-Shot, beer, cocktails, coffee bar, hot dogs and hamburgers grilled by the Wichita Wagonmasters, large T. rex replica. Family-friendly. Sponsored by Wichita Festivals.

5) Wichita Brewing Company Tailgate Party, Emporia Street between Waterman and English. 9 a.m.-midnight Thurs., Fri., Sat.

What you’ll find: Pop-up location for popular local brewery/pizzeria, televisions showing the games, yard games, DJs, live musicians. Family-friendly.

6) Battle of the Brackets ICT, 229 S. Emporia. 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Thurs., Fri., 8 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat.

What you’ll find: Sports bar in a large glass tent, six fire pits, LED video wall, live music and dueling pianos. Also the site of official KU festivities.

8) Brews and Basketball, 630 E. Douglas. 9:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.

What you'll find: Specialty craft beers, food trucks, TVs to watch the games. Festivities will be inside the brewery and outside on the newly expanded patio.

9) Biggins Alley & Patio Party, 808 E. Douglas. 11 a.m.-midnight Thurs.-Sat.

What you’ll find: Live DJ, slam dunk contest, bag tournament and bagpipes. Open to anyone until 10 p.m., then 21+.

10) Brickyard Bash, 129 N. Rock Island. 1 p.m.-2 a.m. Thurs.-Fri., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat.

What you’ll find: Live music at popular outdoor Wichita bar, food, St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Sunday brunch. 21+

11) Hotel at Old Town Pop-Up Pub, 830 E. 1st. Starts 11 a.m. Thurs. and runs through the end of games.

What you’ll find: Food and drinks in the hotel's detached conference center and on the adjoining patio. Multiple TVs to watch the games.

12) Mort’s Cigar & Martini Bar Watch Party, 923 E. 1st. 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.

What you’ll find: Martinis, cigars, breakfast, lunch and dinner served up by the Wichita Wagonmasters, live music and a heated/cooled patio.

More than 13,000 people attended Wednesday's open practice for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. (March 14, 2018)

Game times

Kansas vs. Penn, 1 p.m. (TBS)

NC State vs. Seton Hall, 3:30 p.m. approximately (TBS)

San Diego State vs. Houston, 6:20 p.m. (TBS)

Michigan vs. Montana, 8:50 p.m. approximately (TBS)

Parking and transportation

If you're looking to park close to the arena, you may be in for a challenge.

The easiest solution would be to rely on public transit, which has been beefed up for the tournament's duration.

Shuttles will run continuously from the following parking lots, all of which are free to park at. Shuttles will run from 2 hours prior to tipoff and be in operation until an hour after the conclusion of Thursday games:

Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore (827 spaces available).

Water Street Lot, 899 N. Seneca (481 spaces available).

Waco & First Street Lot, 151 N. Waco (225 spaces available).

If fans want to park downtown, garages will be open, but most require payment. Here are garages within walking distance of Intrust Bank Arena:

City Garage A, 121 S. Emporia (650 spaces available). $20

City Lot B, 200 S. Broadway (256 spaces available). $20

City Lot C, 584 S. Emporia (196 spaces available). $20

City Lot D, 777 E. Waterman (470 spaces available). $20

Spaghetti Works, 649 E. Douglas (132 spaces available). $20

Coleman Lot, 250 N. St. Francis (290 spaces available). Free

South Broadway, 319 S. Broadway (48 spaces available). $15

Douglas Emporia, 120 N. Emporia (90 spaces available). $15

Old Town Square Garage, 350 N. Mead (241 spaces available). Free

Old Town Garage, 250 N. Rock Island (500 spaces available). Free

Shirkmere Lot, 266 N. Topeka (141 spaces available). $10 per day

WaterWalk Garage, 600 S. Water (430 spaces available). Free

Parking at William & Market Garage, 215 S. Market (434 spaces available). $6 per day

The free Q-Line trolley will be running extended hours from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday though Saturday. It will run both its Douglas and Old Town routes.

To ride the Q, look for a Q sign along the route map, which can be found at wichitatransit.org/qline.

If you're looking to take an Uber or a Lyft, the designated drop-off/pickup zone is on Emporia Street, just west of the arena.

Street closures

The following streets are closed for the NCAA tournament:

  • Emporia Street between Waterman and English. (Emporia Street is open only to hotel shuttles, Uber/Lyft and other taxi services)
  • North curb lane of Waterman Street between Emporia and Mead. The roundabout just south of the arena will not be open for dropoffs or pickups.
  • St. Francis Street between Douglas and William
  • Commerce Street between Kellogg and Waterman

If you plan to attend any games or practices at Intrust Bank Arena in coming days, you'll see some of the most beloved — and one of the most controversial — college mascots in the country.