March Madness Lives Here: First Round Tips Off

Moda Center (Photo: By Cacophony (Own work) )

The 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament First Round officially begins today in four arenas: Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena (Jacksonville, FL), Consol Engery Center (Pittsburgh, PA), KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY) and the Moda Center (Portland, OR). The four arenas’ many similarities reveal the NCAA’s requirements for the first-round venues: all are urban, with 15,000-20,000 seats and plenty of luxury suites, all were built within the past 10-15 years, and all have an abundance of nearby hotels and restaurants to cater for the influx of fans for the weekend, a boon to their respective local economies.

Of the four, only the Moda Center in Portland was not designed by Populous. We have nothing against the industry leaders out of Kansas City, but looking at the gallery below quickly reveals the unfortunate repetitiveness you get when one firm designs the vast majority of sporting arenas. The lower bowl/middle amenity level(s)/upper bowl seating layout dominates Populous’ arena work and is very evident here. Ellerbe Beckett’s Moda Center provides variety with its large lower bowl/smaller upper level layout, also found at some of their other arena projects, Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY) and Time Warner Arena (Charlotte, NC).

All four venues can quickly convert to hockey or concert configurations, making them flexible enough to be used many nights of the year. Much debate focuses on the economic productivity of sport venues – if ever there was an argument for their viability it is these kinds of indoor, all-purpose arenas that seem to make the most sense in urban settings. Enjoy the ball folks!

The 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off in Ohio at the University of Dayton Arena, as it has since the play-in game began back in 2001. Unlike the onslaught of corporate-branded arenas we will cover over next three weeks of the tournament, the understated UD Arena shows no allegiance other than the university it has served since opening in 1969.

The 13,000-seat venue has a unique, intimate arrangement, with a single tier of seating and two porch-like viewing areas above both baskets. It’s an under-rated, mid-century modern classic, which we can all enjoy when the First Four tip-off Tuesday night at 6:40pm. Be sure to tune in Wednesday night when hometown team UD Flyers take on Boise State – it will be a special atmosphere, whether you have the privilege to be there or watch along on TV with the rest of us.