Houston is in a 'fantastic spot' 1 year out from hosting the 2023 Final Four

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and Villanova are not the only teams game-planning in New Orleans this weekend.

"Every department, every piece has something that we need to walk away learning," explained Holly Kesterson. "It'll be a busy four days for us as we try to touch on all of those."

Kesterson, who serves as vice president of events for the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority, is the president of the 2023 NCAA Men's Final Four Houston Local Organizing Committee. Along with more than two-dozen others, she traveled from Houston to New Orleans this weekend for a site visit in advance of the Bayou City hosting next year's NCAA men's Final Four.

ABC13 has learned representatives from Houston's Final Four venues, members of the Local Organizing Committee's marketing team and individuals involved with public safety for the '23 event are among the contingent observing the 2022 men's Final Four in New Orleans.

"There's so much that has changed, and we just want to make sure that we're staying in front of those pieces," Kesterson explained. "So we have a lot of our team members here and key community partners here in New Orleans, and their job is to get with their counterpart from New Orleans and see how they're doing it - how they are running it: from their volunteers to public safety initiatives to marketing and programming."

In 2023 it will be the fourth time Houston has played host to the men's Final Four and the third time at NRG Stadium (2011, 2016). Due to the pandemic, prior experience doesn't mean as much as it used to. However, Holly shared exciting news about turning the corner on COVID-19.

"There's a whole new world in front of us for events and I think, knock of wood, we are very hopeful we can be the first full Final Four back since COVID," Holly said optimistically.

"We could be the first one without any type of contingency plans. But that doesn't mean we're not doing the work. You've got to be prepared this day in age for those contingency plans whether its weather or COVID, so there's a lot of planning to do. However, we hope we don't have to use a lot of those plans."

The 2023 Final Four is slated to be held March 31 through April 3. One year out, Holly gives a progress report on the process.

"I think we're in a fantastic spot, all in all," Kesterson admitted. "We've been very, very busy over the last couple of months getting things line and put into place. I think everybody always wants to do a little bit more and get a little further, because that's the nature of the game. But I'm very happy with where we are. We have an amazing team in place with exceptional community partners."

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