Three weeks from today, four first round games of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship will tip off at the Rose Garden, officially bringing to an end the tournament’s 34-year absence from Portland and 26-year absence from the state of Oregon. This long-awaited moment is the realization of many years of hard work by the Oregon Sports Authority and other supporters who fought tirelessly to bring March Madness back to Oregon.
“Four years ago, we took on the challenge of eliminating the state’s sports lottery with an unrelenting focus, knowing that the end result would be incredibly meaningful for the state,” said Drew Mahalic, CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority. “And now that it’s finally a reality, we couldn’t be more proud and excited to welcome the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship back to Oregon.”
Portland last played host to college basketball’s premier event in 1975, when UCLA won the regional semifinal and final at Memorial Coliseum on their way to the national championship. The last NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship games in Oregon took place in Corvallis in 1983, when Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State team edged both Pepperdine and UNLV in first and second round games during their storybook run to the NCAA championship. In the two decades since, Oregon was prevented from hosting the men’s basketball tournament due to the state lottery’s sports action game.
Four years ago, in an effort to reclaim the March Madness experience, the Oregon Sports Authority developed a plan in concert with Oregon legislators to eliminate the state’s sports lottery while also stabilizing lottery funding for college athletics. While previous efforts had stalled largely due to the inability to replace lottery revenue directed to college athletics, the bill introduced in the 2005 legislature would ultimately pass by a total margin of 80-4 in the final days of the session. The Oregon Sports Authority then teamed with the University of Oregon, Rose Quarter and Travel Portland to submit Portland’s bid to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, which named the Rose Garden as a host site for the 2009 first-/second-rounds in July of 2006.
Three years later, Oregon is now poised to reap the tremendous benefits of hosting one of the nation’s most exciting and economically impactful sports events. Past host sites of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship have reported an economic impact of approximately $10 million. In Portland, the official hotel block for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship totals nearly 3,000 hotel room nights, with thousands more anticipated from out-of-town spectators.
“It’s one of the biggest and best events in all of sports, and that’s why we worked so hard to make it happen,” said Mahalic. “We’ve brought a lot of big time events to Oregon, but this probably ranks as the most satisfying because of the incredible challenges involved.”
In recent months the Oregon Sports Authority has lent its support to the organizing efforts of the University of Oregon, the official host institution for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Portland. Eight teams from two separate regions will arrive in Portland to play four first round games during two sessions of action at the Rose Garden on Thursday, March 19. The four winners will advance to play in the two second round games at the Rose Garden on Saturday, March 21.
“We’ve been working closely with the University of Oregon, Rose Quarter and Travel Portland to make sure the teams, fans, media and NCAA officials are all treated to a very warm welcome,” said Mahalic. “The next round of bidding is coming up soon so we want to make a positive impression and state our case for the right to host a regional in 2011 or 2012.”
While tickets are sold out for the first and second round games on March 19 and 21, the public is invited to join the festivities and watch all eight teams practice free of charge on Wednesday, March 18 at the Rose Garden. Practices will take place from Noon to 3:00 p.m. and from 4:25 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. Admission and parking are both free on the open practice day. The eight NCAA Tournament teams competing in Portland will be announced on CBS-TV at 3:00 p.m. PT on Sunday, March 15.
— Oregon Sports Authority News Release, February 26, 2009