New Orleans is up for more Final Fours

New Orleans went through a nine-year gap before playing host to its latest men’s Final Four.

This time around, local officials are hoping to cut that time span almost in half.

The Crescent City on Monday was named a finalist for the event in 2017, 2019 and 2020, although the earlier date would be the one preferred. That would make it only five years after the last one played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2012.

Also, with New Orleans skipping 2018 because the Super Bowl bid for that year and 2019 would conflict with a bid for the College Football Playoff championship game, 2020 would be the next best available date.

New Orleans also is finalist for a Women’s Final Four in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The awarding of both events for all four years is expected in November.

“You always want an event to come back as soon as possible,” said Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President and CEO Jay Cicero, whose group bid along with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tulane and UNO. “And when you look at how much fun it was for the fans last time and how we filled the needs of the teams and the sponsors, we know that New Orleans is tailor-made for this event.”

Cicero added that while playing host to both Final Fours in one year would be impossible, any of the other combinations would work, as it did in 2013 when both the Super Bowl and Women’s Final Four were played in New Orleans.

“These events are of great economic benefit to our city and state,” Cicero said. “But other cities recognize that, too.

“That’s why the competition is so formidable.”

Indeed, although not breaking preferences down by years, the NCAA named Atlanta, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, North Texas, Phoenix-Glendale, San Antonio and St. Louis as the other finalists for the Final Four.

Including New Orleans, that’s eight of the 10 cities meeting the minimum requirement —– a 60,000-seat domed stadium with at least 10,000 full-service hotel rooms in the proximity, and one of the others, Houston, is the site of the 2016 Final Four.

With North Texas (AT&T Stadium in Arlington) and Indianapolis hosting this year and in 2015, Atlanta coming off hosting in 2013 and Minneapolis’ stadium still under construction, New Orleans’ primary competition for 2017 would appear to be St. Louis, which last hosted in 2005, San Antonio, site of three Final Fours between 1998 and 2008 and Phoenix-Glendale which has never hosted a Final Four but is the only site in the Far West.

A Final Four also has traditionally meant a regional in the preceding year, although the last one in New Orleans was played in the New Orleans Arena instead of the Superdome because of signage issues.

“The committee and staff have been thoroughly impressed with the quality of bids, the level of detail and incredible enthusiasm that the individuals behind each bid have demonstrated thus far in the process,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA vice-president for men’s basketball said. “We fully expect the remainder of the bid process to be competitive.”

Along with New Orleans, finalists for the Women’s Final Four are Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. New Orleans and Tampa Bay are the only previous host cities, although Nashville will do so this year.

“We received plenty of praise we did with the Women’s Final Four last year,” Cicero said. “We expect to be a strong contender again this time.”

Anucha Brown, the NCAA vice-president for women’s basketball, said the choice would be difficult.

“The amount of interest was considerable,” she said. “As America’s marquee women’s sporting event, these cities understand the importance of the Women’s Final Four and will work to make it shine in their communities.”

Completed bids for both events are due in May with site visits by members of the NCAA’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees scheduled in August, September and October.

Unlike past Final Fours when they alternated as host schools, Tulane and UNO would be considered co-hosts as both events.

“I can say with confidence that the University of New Orleans is proud to partner with these great organizations,” Privateers Athletic Director Derek Morel said. “We are unified and committed to presenting an exceptional bid for both of these events.”

The Sugar Bowl is part of the local effort for the second time.

New Orleans has been the site of five previous Men’s Final Fours and is the only city to play host to three Women’s Final Fours.