The NCAA will bring two additional college basketball national championship games to Atlanta during Final Four weekend next year.
The Divisions II and III men’s championship games will be played at State Farm Arena on April 5, 2020, the day between Final Four games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the NCAA announced at a news conference in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Next year will mark just the second time the championship games of Divisions I, II and III will be played in the same city. The first time also was in Atlanta as part of the 2013 Final Four.
“The Division II and III coaches, in particular, had been anxious to do it again,” Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said. “They thought the experience was so special for those teams that made the championship game. And not every city is set up to do it as well as Atlanta is.
“It was really based on the success that we had here in 2013 and is a way to celebrate the game.”
Gavitt said State Farm Arena’s proximity to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as well as to downtown hotels and the Georgia World Congress Center, works well for the added games.
“The footprint here really makes it attractive,” he said. “I know we would have concerns in other places where the venue would not be so convenient to the downtown area.”
Admission “likely” will be free for the Divisions II and III title games next year, Gavitt said, as it was in 2013 when the back-to-back games drew about 14,000 fans to what was then called Philips Arena. Starting times haven’t been set but will be in the afternoon hours, Gavitt said.
“Opening the building and hosting these games with no admission (charge) so fans can see this incredible Division II and III basketball that we don’t really give that much exposure to … makes a contribution, I think, to the overall effort in the year of basketball in Atlanta,” said Steve Koonin, CEO of the Hawks and State Farm Arena.
Carl Adkins, executive director of the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee, said discussions began “a year or so ago” about adding the games to the lineup of Final Four-related events, which also will include Fan Fest in the Congress Center and Music Fest in Centennial Olympic Park.
“It just creates that much more excitement for the basketball fan,” Adkins said of the additional games. “It’s going to be 24/7 basketball.”
The Final Four will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on April 4 (semifinals) and April 6 (championship game). The event has been played in Atlanta four times previously at buildings that no longer exist -- 1977 at The Omni and 2002, 2007 and 2013 at the Georgia Dome.
“It is truly ... one of the best places to hold the Final Four,” Gavitt said of Atlanta.
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