DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – After months of preparation and build-up, the First Four is coming to an end Wednesday in Dayton.
Every year, it pumps millions of dollars into our economy, puts us in the spotlight and local organizers want to keep it here for years to come.
A lot of fans Wednesday went into the arena excited and hopeful. It’s the beginning of what they hope to be a long journey for their team throughout the NCAA tournament.
As for the local organizers, these last two days are a major test. They want to put on a good showing and impress NCAA officials because in a few weeks they’ll be deciding whether the tournament stays or goes.
For 17 straight years, Dayton has been home to the beginning of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s what we do,” Eric Farrel said. “Here in the Dayton region.”
Eric Farrell–a member of the First Four Local Organizing Committee–is determined to keep the momentum strong here in the Miami Valley even after this year’s tournament wraps up.
“This is ours and we are going to keep it her,” Farrell said. “And I think the message is out there that we want to send to the NCAA and to the whole nation really that the First Four belongs right here in Dayton, Ohio for years to come.”
This year, neither night had sold out crowds. Despite that, organizers says ticket sales are steady. Even fans from out of the area–hope the tournament stays.
“I think Dayton is nice,” Jeff Johnson said. “Especially with all the shopping and different restaurants that are around.”
Jeff Johnson and his mom Tammy–decked out in her North Carolina Central gear–traveled all the way from West Virginia to cheer on their team.
“I think you’ve got plenty of options for people coming from out of town,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s a nice place to have it.”
So far, Evansville, Indiana; Hershey, Pennslyvania; and Detroit, Michigan have all publicly expressed interested in hosting the First Four Tournament.
But, Farrell says Dayton is the NCAA’s best option.
“What we’ve done here has really gained a lot of traction,” Farrell said. “And really gained a lot of momentum and so the inner-workings are here. The NCAA is comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Dayton will host the First Four Tournament in 2018. The NCAA is expected to make a decision on the 2019 First Four Tournament in early spring.