The NCAA is taking another look at Albany, and now city and county officials are scrambling to provide necessary amenities and roll out the welcome mat.
March Madness comes back to Albany in 2015. On Wednesday, the NCAA women's Division I basketball tournament awarded a regional round to Times Union Center from March 28-31, 2015. It marks the first regional in Albany history, with the victor going on to the Final Four. Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber. "They had a site selection party so to speak, very similar to the way colleges learn who their opponents are on a live selection process. They had a link for each one of the sports and some 500 facilities that submitte dbids on a live selection process. We were able to go on and click on to their link and see what other facilities were named. We had three bids submitted. Two out of three we had our names announced, we ended up with the 2015 Women's Regional Basketball and 2016 Men's Ice Hockey"
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy calls the news "exciting," saying it adds support to the movement to build a new convention center in downtown Albany. Belber believes he knows how to attract more NCAA events, like the first men’s basketball tourney games since 2003, to the city: make room for the hordes of working media who follow men’s hoops. "It's 450 to 500 media representatives that come in. In order to have sufficient space for them, we really need that project to go forward in downtown Albany with the convention center that would link up to the back of the arena, and have the availability for not only additional working media space but additional fan festival space that would be indoors, because you can't always count on the month of march having 70 degree weather on the street. These are very vital components as to whether or not we're going to be able to get the men's basketball back. Beyond that, the use of the convention center and the use of the front atrium of the arena perhaps being enclosed and have more space, all of these things that are being worked on right now and hopefully get approved to go forward would greatly enhance our ability to bring in more conventions, more trade shows, perhaps link up the Empire State Plaza so that you could market all three of these spaces."
McCoy is on board with expansion plans designed with future NCAA bids in mind. "They have certain requirements. There has to be so many hotels adjacent to the arena. So we submitted a plan that hey look you know the DeWitt Hotel is being redone. There's another hotel looking to go in downtown Albany. You know the new ones have been established and the other requirements they have. So ah we're on the radar."
Although McCoy wishes everything could come together sooner, he's looking at 2018 as the earliest year the NCAA could settle in.