Pieces fit for Wichita to land NCAA Tournament in 2018

Workers at Intrust Bank Arena lay out the basketball court in preparation of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Wichita Women's Regional in 2011.
Workers at Intrust Bank Arena lay out the basketball court in preparation of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Wichita Women's Regional in 2011. File photo

This time, it fell just right for Wichita.

Spruced up hotels, an expanded partnership and winning basketball at Wichita State University.

Those were key factors in Wichita being named Monday as one of eight sites to host preliminary rounds of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Intrust Bank Arena.

After seeing being jilted twice in recent years, Wichita will get a piece of the action from the multibillion-dollar March Madness tournament. Local officials have estimated an economic impact of $10 million for the area.

“It’s a big jigsaw puzzle,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president for men’s basketball, said while also announcing early-round sites for 2016 and 2017 tournaments. “Timing is important in all of this because there are so many moving parts.”

WSU has moved college basketball to a fever pitch. The Shockers followed their Final Four run in 2013 by going 35-0 last year before losing to Kentucky in their second tournament game.

“Certainly the support Wichita State has bodes well for the selection,” said Scott Barnes, Utah State University athletics director and chair of the tournament.

JoAn Scott, the NCAA’s managing director for the tournament, said that “excitement should be at an all-time high” in Wichita.

One big hitch for Shocker fans.

Because WSU is a co-host for the event, NCAA rules prevent the Shockers from playing the first two rounds at Intrust. But longtime Shocker fan Sherl Weatherbee said she’s still happy for the community.

“I’ll go wherever they send the Shockers, because I’m Shockers all the way,” she said. “But it is awesome that they got the tournament here. It’s going to be great for this city.”

8 teams, 5 hotels

Wichita was one of 57 sites seeking to host games leading up to the Final Four for tournaments in 2016, 2017 or 2018.

“It’s a competitive process,” Gavitt said.

So Wichita knows.

It was snubbed five years ago after submitting a bid for early-round games in 2011 or 2012. Then the city was rejected again three years ago with its bid for the 2014 or 2015 tournaments.

Concern about hotels has been an issue in Wichita’s previous bids. But officials said that recent renovations played a part in making what Wichita has to offer more appealing.

The preliminary rounds will bring eight teams to each city. Five hotels have been selected to serve those teams, which means six teams will have to double up.

“That’s not common,” Gavitt said. “Certainly the number of (full-service) hotels is considered in the selection process, but it’s not a specific requirement that there be eight hotels.”

But he noted that at the Final Four last year in Arlington, Texas, two teams stayed at the same hotel.

Two other Wichita hotels will be used for media and NCAA and tournament officials.

The city tried to make its bid more attractive this time by selling it as a community-wide effort.

While WSU and the Missouri Valley Conference are the official co-hosts, the bid made it clear that the city of Wichita, Sedgwick County, the Greater Wichita Sports Commission and GoWichita – the city’s convention and visitors bureau – were part of the process.

That fed into the NCAA’s emphasis in recent years for the games to be more of an event, said Brad Pittman, WSU’s associate athletic director who headed up the school’s efforts.

“I think we’ve accomplished that,” he said.

While details have yet to be settled, a fan fest will be held outside the arena. Think live music and more.

“It’ll bring more excitement – fun before and after the games,” Pittman said.

Unveiling the sites Monday had a drum-roll effect. The NCAA revealed the sites on a live webcast chronologically, with the 2018 tournament coming last.

“It was worth the wait,” said Bob Hanson, president and executive director of the Greater Wichita Sports Commission.

This will be the first time the men’s tournament has had games in Wichita since 1994, when they were at the Kansas Coliseum.

“It’s always exciting to go back to cities we haven’t been to in a while,” the NCAA’s Scott said.

Showcasing city

City officials and fans were ecstatic that their fortune was better this time around.

“We will showcase our city from the welcome at the new airport terminal to the heart of our city downtown,” Mayor Carl Brewer said.

The city’s airport with its new terminal and name – Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport – opens this spring.

City officials said they will evaluate the streets and parking downtown and the parking garage at the old Macy’s building within blocks of the arena will be finished before the tournament.

Intrust was the site of preliminary-round games for the women’s tournament in 2011. NCAA and local officials said the turnout strengthened the city’s bid for the men’s tournament.

Intrust ranked first in attendance among women’s sites without a home team in the field and eighth overall among the 16 subregional sites. Three games over two days drew about 9,000 fans.

Wichita’s cause also was helped by the Missouri Valley Conference taking part as a host, the NCAA’s Gavitt said.

“The Valley has a good track record as a host,” he said.

The early-round games will return to being called first- and second-round games in 2016, the NCAA said in announcing the sites.

Since the tournament expanded from to 68 teams from 65 in 2011, they’ve been referred to as second- and third-round games to give greater meaning to the four play-in games in Dayton, Ohio. Those play-in games will continue to be known as the First Four.

Wichita’s six games will be played on a Thursday and a Saturday, March 15 and March 17, 2018. Information on tickets sales is not yet available.

Pittman said the proposed operating budget for the tournament is $858,673, which includes advertising, taxes, credit card expenses, arena facility fees, equipment, arena rental charge set by NCAA, decoration, table crew and medical staff, hotel rooms for officials and media meals.

Contributing: Suzanne Perez Tobias of The Eagle

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

2016-18 NCAA Tournament sites


First Four

March 15-16 in Dayton, Ohio

First and Second Rounds

March 17 and 19 in Ames, Iowa; Denver; Providence, R.I.; Raleigh, N.C.

March 18 and 20 in New York; Oklahoma City; St. Louis, Spokane, Wash.

Regional Semifinals, Finals

March 24 and 26 in Anaheim, Calif. (West); Louisville, Ky. (South)

March 25 and 27 in Chicago (Midwest), Philadelphia (East)

Final Four

April 2 and 4 in Houston


First Four

March 14-15 in Dayton, Ohio

First and Second Rounds

March 16 and 18 in Buffalo, N.Y.; Milwaukee; Orlando, Fla.; Salt Lake City

March 17 and 19 in Greensboro, N.C.; Indianapolis; Tulsa; Sacramento, Calif.

Regional Semifinals, Finals

March 23 and 25 in Kansas City, Mo. (Midwest); San Jose, Calif. (West)

March 24 and 26 in Memphis, Tenn. (South); New York (East)

Final Four

April 1 and 3 in Phoenix


First Four

March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio

First and Second Rounds

March 15 and 17 in Boise, Idaho; Dallas; Pittsburgh; Wichita

March 16 and 18 in Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Nashville, Tenn.; San Diego

Regional Semifinals, Finals

March 22 and 24 in Atlanta (South), Los Angeles (West)

March 23 and 25 in Boston (East), Omaha (Midwest)

Final Four

March 31 and April 2 in San Antonio

Hotels that will host NCAA tournament teams in 2018

▪  The Ambassador, 104 S. Broadway

▪  The Hyatt Regency, 400 W. Waterman

▪  Doubletree by Hilton Wichita Airport, 2098 Airport Road

▪  Holiday Inn East, 549 S. Rock Road

▪  Wichita Marriott, 9100 Corporate Hills Drive

▪  Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview, 400 W. Douglas, will be the NCAA and media headquarters. The Courtyard by Marriott Wichita at Old Town, 820 E. 2nd, will host tournament officials.

Wichita tournament history

At Wichita State

1964 Midwest Regional

WU Field House


Wichita St. 84, Creighton 68

Kansas St. 64, Texas Western 60


Kansas St. 94, Wichita St. 86 (1st)

Texas Western 63, Creighton 52 (3rd)

1966 First Round

WSU Field House

Houston 82, Colorado St. 76 (West)

Texas Western 89, Oklahoma City 74 (Midwest)

1968 Midwest Regional

WSU Field House


Houston 91, Louisville 75

TCU 77, Kansas St. 72


Houston 103, TCU 68 (1st)

Louisville 93, Kansas St. 63 (3rd)

1971 Midwest Regional

Levitt Arena


Kansas 78, Houston 77

Drake 79, Notre Dame 72


Kansas 73, Drake 71 (1st)

Houston 119, Notre Dame 106 (3rd)

1973 Midwest Regional

Levitt Arena

First Round

South Carolina 78, Texas Tech 70

Southwestern Louisiana 102, Houston 89

1978 Midwest Regional

Levitt Arena

First Round

Utah 86, Missouri 79

DePaul 80, Creighton 78

1981 Midwest Regional

Levitt Arena

First Round

Kansas 69, Mississippi 66

Wichita St. 95, Southern 70

Second Round

Wichita St. 60, Iowa 56

Kansas 88, Arizona St. 71

At Kansas Coliseum

1994 Midwest Regional

First Round

Maryland 74, Saint Louis 66

Massachusetts 78, Southwest Texas St. 60

Michigan 78, Pepperdine 74, OT

Texas 91, Western Kentucky 77

Second Round

Maryland 95, Massachusetts 87

Michigan 84, Texas 79

NCAA’s criteria

Here are some of the factors considered by the NCAA in chosing a city to host the early-round men’s basketball tournments:

Hotels: Superior quality hotels that can provide meals, meeting space and room service at competitive rates. More than one team can stay at the same hotel, as long as the teams are given separate areas.

Airports: Consideration is given to cities with the highest frequency of daily arrivals and departures.

Attendance: Community interest in basketball and championship.

Host history: Consideration given to city that has not hosted a tournament most recently.

Arena: Must have a minimum of 10,000 seats.

Media space: Must have 3,200 square feet minimum back of the house media space.

Source: NCAA

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