Even more of college basketball’s March Madness is coming to Atlanta.
Three days after announcing that the 2020 Final Four will be played in the new Falcons stadium, the NCAA said Monday that the 2018 South Regional semifinals and final will be played in Philips Arena.
That means “Sweet 16” and “Elite Eight” games in Atlanta will determine one of the teams that will advance to the 2018 men’s Final Four in San Antonio.
While a seating capacity of at least 60,000 is required for the Final Four, limiting that marquee event to domed or retractable-roof stadiums, the selection of 18,000-seat Philips Arena is consistent with the NCAA men’s basketball committee’s recent preference to play earlier rounds of the tournament in smaller venues.
“The potential of selling out a building and having it be a tough ticket and an incredible atmosphere (for a regional) is greater, frankly, in arenas than it is in domes,” NCAA vice president of men’s basketball Dan Gavitt said Monday.
The 2018 South Regional will mark the first time for NCAA Division I tournament games in Philips Arena, which opened in 1999 and is operated by the Hawks organization.
“The excitement of college basketball, coupled with our intimate setting, will make for an incredible atmosphere,” said Trey Feazell, general manager of Philips Arena and executive vice president of the Hawks.
The event is scheduled for March 22 and 24, 2018, the NCAA said.
Last year, in conjunction with the Final Four at the Georgia Dome, Philips hosted the NCAA Divisions II and III men’s basketball championship games as part of the NCAA’s 75th-anniversary celebration of March Madness.
“The experience that we had at Philips Arena … in 2013 was a very positive one,” Gavitt said. “That very much weighed into the consideration given to Philips Arena to host a regional. The entire venue and the organization was incredibly accommodating.”
Atlanta has hosted a total of 85 NCAA men’s tournament games, fifth most of any city — 55 at the Omni from 1977-92 and 30 at the Georgia Dome. The Omni was demolished in 1997.
Georgia Tech will be the official NCAA host institution for the 2018 South Regional and the 2020 Final Four.
The NCAA has not chosen regional sites for 2019. Despite the preference for smaller buildings, Gavitt said it’s possible the new Falcons stadium could be considered for a regional that year.
“Previous to about a year ago, there was a requirement for a Final Four site to host a regional the year before. It’s no longer a requirement,” Gavitt said. “It’s an opportunity and a possibility but not a requirement.”