The free three-day music festival for the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in April will be at the Minneapolis Armory, a smaller venue than those in other recent host cities where tens of thousands of fans filled outdoor parks for big-name acts.
In San Antonio during the 2018 Final Four, University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Final Four organizers said they expected in 2019 to put on the sort of outdoor music festival that has become a standard for the final weekend of the national tournament.
However, Minnesota Final Four committee CEO Kate Mortenson said Wednesday that the NCAA has selected the armory for this year’s concerts despite earlier discussions about an outdoor venue. The capacity of the armory, which is close to the tournament site at U.S. Bank Stadium, is 8,000.
“They came into Minneapolis, looked around at the dynamic downtown that we had and decided the best experience would be music at the armory,” Mortenson said, adding that the concert talent will be “A-list” names to be revealed in early March.
The entire Final Four, she said, will be unlike any other and include for the first time a four-day tailgating party, to be held on Nicollet Mall.
“It will feel every bit as spectacular as a Final Four feels” with “various forms of high-quality experiences,” she said.
The events were among those announced Wednesday at a news conference at North Commons Recreation Center in Minneapolis. Organizers said that Unilever will sponsor the Final Four’s annual “Legacy” project that includes installing a new basketball court, painting inspiring wall murals, installing new computers and sprucing up the teen room at North Commons.
Other announced events are Final Four fixtures, including the activity-oriented Fan Fest for youngsters at the Minneapolis Convention Center on April 5-8; a free open house at U.S. Bank Stadium for team practices; an All-Star Game on April 5; and the “Final Four Dribble” on April 7, where thousands of children will get a shirt and basketball and dribble down the streets to the Convention Center.
Emphasizing the range of events, Mortenson repeated her tagline about the tournament, “No ticket, no problem.” She said more details on the events will be announced later.
After a monthlong tournament that begins with a bracket of 68 teams, the four surviving men’s teams will roll into Minneapolis for the semifinals and the championship game. The two semifinals will be played on Saturday, April 6, with the title game on Monday night, April 8. Tickets start about $200 and go up from there.
According to documents submitted to Minneapolis City Hall for approval, Nicollet Mall will be used for a tailgating event April 5-8 between S. 8th and 12th streets. If the City Council approves the measure Friday, some of the cross streets will be closed while others will be restricted.
A lasting impact
During the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Nicollet Mall was the site of the 10-day, $30 million Super Bowl Live event, which featured concerts, national TV broadcasts, food trucks, corporate kiosks, skiing and a snowmobiler who soared and somersaulted high across the mall. Events also were held at the Convention Center.
Mortenson declined to characterize the planned Final Four tailgating event or contrast it with Super Bowl Live.
“We don’t want to compare it to any other event that has happened in the past or will happen in the future,” she said.
At the news conference on the basketball court at North Commons, Scott Antony, director for Unilever, the global consumer goods company, talked about the court’s rehab as the signature “Legacy” event — the annual Final Four effort designed to have a lasting impact.
Antony noted the history of the court (nets were first hung there in 1908, he said) and announced it would be getting a new hardwood surface installed by volunteers. Also in the works: a new wireless public address system, LED lighting, a custom paint job, new backboards, nets and wall padding.
Neither Antony nor Final Four officials would provide the cost or value of the project.
Antony said Target Corp. will donate supplies and equipment for the effort that, he said, was “designed to give back to the community.”
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson