Here's Why March Madness Hasn't Returned to Verizon Arena

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 12:00 am  

Fayetteville resident Jimmy Dykes (left, shown with play-by-play man Brad Nessler) provides analysis for 65 to 70 men’s basketball games a year on national TV. (Photo by Grace Riley)

It’s unclear if any NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament games will ever return to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. 

Fans packed the games in 2008, when the stadium was called Alltel Area, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has submitted two bids to the NCAA to bring the events back to Verizon, but both times have shot air balls. 

The reason?

Verizon only holds about 15,000 fans for the basketball games, and the NCAA now is looking for venues that seat between 18,000 and 24,000, even though those stadiums aren’t full.

Still, UALR will continue to lobby for the games.

“We’re absolutely going to rebid,” said Chris Peterson, director of athletics for UALR. “It’s great for our state. It’s great for central Arkansas. It’s good for everybody.”

The bids are only let every couple of years, and it’s unclear when the next one will be. 

About a decade ago, one of the sticking points for central Arkansas not getting the games was tied to not enough quality full-service hotels in the area of the arena. But once that issue was corrected UALR won the bid in 2007 for the 2008 first-round games.

“If we ever want to see this tournament again, it will have to be a sellout,” J.P. Flynn, the UALR ticket manager, told Arkansas Business in March 2007.

The games were a sellout. 

 

 

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