There's method to madness of setting up for tournament
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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Crews installed the official NCAA men's basketball tournament floor at the BOK Center on Monday and are busy making other preparations for March Madness to descend on Tulsa.
"The NCAA's goal is to have all eight of the second- and third-round sites look as similar as possible," BOK Center Special Events and Booking Manager Jeff Nickler said, explaining how there's supposed to be very few visual differences as the TV broadcasts bounce between games.
"An absolutely identical court is shipped to all sites."
Arena staff began the project at 8 a.m. and were finished piecing the squares together like a puzzle within two hours.
"That's 225 pieces of polished maple right there that all fit together," said Nickler, surveying the completed floor, emblazoned with the blue NCAA logo.
The BOK Center is hosting rounds, featuring Kansas, Texas, Memphis and other teams, on Friday and Sunday.
With more than 350 credentialed media arriving to cover the games, court-side tables are lined up for them. Reporters also will occupy the front row of the fixed seating.
And behind the bowl on the event level, a massive media work area was established where a storage area used to be.
At one end will be a stage where the coaches and players will give pre-and-post game interviews.
CBS Sports and its partners, which hold the broadcast rights to the tournament, have a large dining area that the BOK Center is catering.
"(Sportscaster) Marv Albert and all of the other on-air talent will be eating and relaxing right here," Nickler said, pointing to a carpeted section cordoned off with black curtains.
The star dressing rooms, usually reserved for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Celine Dion, will be used as random-drug-testing centers for the athletes.
The venue's four locker rooms will be assigned based on their rankings. Top-seeded Kansas, at least initially, will get the nicest one, usually occupied by the Tulsa Shock, the local WNBA franchise.
"All," Nickler emphasized, "will be decorated and stocked to be identical."
One of the staff's biggest challenges in preparing for the tournament has been to cover up all of the advertising throughout the building.
The trash cans are turned to hide the BOK Center logo, Pepsi products will be served in generic cups, the Ford vehicles displayed in the concourse have been moved and a drape hides the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino display.
The arena's center-hung scoreboard was lowered so that sponsor Williams' logo could be covered up.
Even the LED ribbon that wraps around the arena's bowl will only display NCAA-approved content.
Budweiser banners also have been taken down, not only because they are considered advertising, but because alcohol won't be for general sale inside the venue during the tournament.
"Absolutely every single detail has been spelled out in black and white by the NCAA," Nickler said.
When tourney officials arrive Wednesday, he said, they will closely inspect the venue to make sure all rules have been adhered to.
Everyone involved wants to make sure this event goes off smoothly so that Tulsa has the opportunity to be a host city again.
A local bid is expected to be submitted later this year for tournament rounds in 2014 and 2015, Nickler said.
One key factor in making it a success, he said, is to ensure the arena is sold out for the games.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, there were about 5,100 tickets left for the arena's 17,839-capacity basketball setup.
The big push for ticket sales is on now that the teams playing in Tulsa have been revealed.
At this point, only the $237 all-session tickets are available, but that will change at 10 a.m. Wednesday, when single-session tickets will go on sale for $79 each. Those tickets only will be sold in person at the BOK Center's box office.
Even the venue's suite holders, who usually get their event tickets as part of their packages, had to buy their NCAA basketball tickets or leave their suites dark for the games.
All ponied up the money.
For those wanting to see some free basketball action, the venue will be opened Thursday for spectators to watch the practice rounds.
Nickler encouraged all basketball fans to check out the action.
"Whether you're a fan of any of these teams or not, it's a phenomenal atmosphere," said Nickler, who has attended others in preparation for this one.
"If you are a fan of college basketball, period, to experience March Madness in person is incredible."
The BOK Center will be opened up to spectators Thursday to watch the 40-minute open practices for free.
Oakland noon to 12:40 p.m.
Memphis 12:45-1:25 p.m.
Texas 1:30 to 2:10 p.m.
Arizona 2:15 to 2:55 p.m.
Kansas 4:25 to 5:05 p.m.
UNLV 5:10 to 5:50 p.m.
Boston 5:55 to 6:35 p.m.
Illinois 6:40 to 7:20 p.m.
Get your tickets
All-session tickets are available for $237 at tulsaworld.com/ncaatickets, by calling 866-726-5287 or at the BOK Center box office.
Original Print Headline: The stage is set
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Workers put the finishing touches on the official NCAA tournament floor, assembled from 225 squares of maple wood. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World
Don Gibson of Connor Sports Flooring sands down a spot on the basketball floor that will be the center of the action later this week. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World
Foreman Matt Hartley measures the height of the basketball hoop at the BOK Center in preparation for the NCAA tourney. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World