HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The college football season has yet to kick off, but here in Houston, we're focused on college basketball's postseason. That's because Houston is preparing to host the NCAA Men's Final Four next year.
When NRG Stadium hosts college basketball's marquee event from March 31 through April 3, 2023, it will be the third time in 12 years Houston has done so, which is more than any other place on the planet during that time.
"The compact footprint downtown, the development downtown," Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, noted when explaining why the NCAA continues to bring high-profile events to Space City. "Some of the construction was underway when we were here in 2016. All that is completed now. The campus for ancillary events for four teams to be downtown is as good as we find anywhere in the country. NRG Park is just a fantastic venue with its own space and great activation out there. It's a great place for the Final Four."
Gavitt paid a visit to Houston on Wednesday with corporate partners for a "familiarization tour" ahead of next year's event. He says the planning process is "ahead of pace" from where the NCAA is historically at this point, crediting the Local Organizing Committee and the four host institutions for that.
What's different from when Houston hosted the NCAA Men's Final Four in 2016? All four teams will stay in downtown hotels.
"Last time we were here, that wasn't the case," Gavitt explained. "Some of the teams were in the Galleria area. But just having that much more capacity downtown to create that incredible buzz (is important)."
Adding to that buzz, the Rockets will play two home games in downtown Houston's Toyota Center on Final Four weekend. The Rockets will host Detroit on Friday, March 31 at 7 p.m. and the Lakers on Sunday April, 2 at 6 p.m.
But what if local families aren't interested in basketball?
There are so many different events that go on outside of the games. The March Madness Music Festival, Fan Fest, Final Four Dribble - they're either free or low-cost.
There will be so many activities for families to engage socially and do things interactively. That's a great weekend to experience all of that. In addition, as of Nov. 1, organizers will be seeking as many as 3,500 Houstonians to volunteer at the Men's Final Four to commit to two shifts.