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Everything you need to know about the NCAA tournament coming to Columbia SC in March. 🏀

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Experience Columbia SC Coasters for the tournament weekend, March 22-24, 2019

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Columbia, S.C. is the lucky host of the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament first + second round games, happening March 22-24. But as you may have guessed, it was not luck that made this happen.

The tournament (a.k.a. “March Madness”) consists of 68 teams (to be announced on Selection Sunday, March 17) playing in 67 single-elimination games across the U.S. over 19 days – resulting in 1 winning team. Eight of those 68 teams will come to Cola to play in two rounds of games, narrowing it down to 16 teams who will advance to Regionals, then the Final Four.

To back up, cities have to “compete” for hosting basketball tournaments by submitting bids to the NCAA. The teams at Experience Columbia SC Sports + UofSC (with a groundswell of support from the community) won the bid from the NCAA to host this year, beating out other cities in the Southeast. A big win – because until the Confederate flag was removed from the State House grounds in 2015, Columbia was banned from submitting a bid at all.

It takes a lot to host a giant event like this – you have to have a certain number of everything in your city: from locker rooms + toilets to a local airport + enough hotels.

Here’s a breakdown of Cola getting the tournament:

  • 49. Years since Cola hosted an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (in 1970).
  • 9. Hotels in Columbia that’ll be used by the NCAA during the weekend.
  • 3,553. Hotel rooms contracted by the NCAA over 6 nights.
  • 20,000-25,000. Expected visitors to Cola for the event.
  • 75%. Avg. return rate of visitors after their first visit to Columbia – vs. a non-event visit rate of 33% for first-time visitors. (Read: Once they’ve been, most visitors return.)
  • $9,144,630. Potential economic impact of the tournament weekend on our region.
  • 11. Community letters of support sent to NCAA to bring the event to Cola this year.
  • 188. Pages of information submitted to the NCAA for the Columbia bid.
  • 8. Basketball teams coming to Columbia.
  • 30+. Community events planned during March Madness in Columbia (like Taco Tipoff at Publico + Columbia Craft Single Elimination Tournament). See all events here.

This is huge for Cola – and our city is going all out. Here’s what you should know:

  • There’s a whole website dedicated to the event.
  • Open practice is Thursday (and it’s free). See the full schedule of games here.
  • Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center is hosting a free Fan Fest Thurs. + Fri., presented by Segra.
  • Tickets are going fast – buy them from NCAA here.
  • Gameday shuttles will be free from satellite parking areas at Gamecock Park off of Bluff Rd. and the former Kline Iron & Steel site at the corner of Huger + Gervais.
  • Look out for a temporary public art piece at First Citizens Green at the corner of Main + Lady St. the week of March 8, a partnership of One Columbia and Experience Columbia SC.
  • Get involved by volunteering to staff a welcome table or be a mobile ambassador at the events. Email sports@experiencecolumbiasc.com to volunteer.
  • If you’re a local biz, host a basketball-themed event + submit it here.

While we won’t know which teams are coming to Columbia until Selection Sunday, we can have a little fun and guess. Predict the team you think will be most-likely to come to Cola in our poll below. 👇

Predict the top #RealColumbiaSC Dream Team 🏀

When we asked you what teams you would pay to see play in Columbia, we got a ton of responses on Instagram, Facebook + Twitter.

So we compiled the top-four responses into a #RealColumbiaSC Dream Team poll, where you can vote to predict the team most likely to be chosen on Selection Sunday to play in Columbia when the tournament is in town.

How it works: Vote in the poll below (or online here) by clicking the team you think will most likely come to Columbia. 👇

Confident in your vote? Print out your NCAA bracket here.

This content was created in partnership with Experience Columbia SC.

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