Crescent City hot spot in sports

Posted on: March 7 2011
As the days draw nearer to the tipoff of the NCAA's Southeast Regional on March 24, members of the local host organizing committee are growing increasingly excited

Crescent City hot spot in sports

Premier events in N.O. on horizon

Sunday, March 06, 2011

By Nakia Hogan

Staff writer

As the days draw nearer to the tipoff of the NCAA's Southeast Regional on March 24, members of the local host organizing committee are growing increasingly excited about putting on one of March Madness' marquee events.

New Orleans, which hosted first- and second-round games last year, is one of four cities hosting an NCAA regional, whose champion will advance to the Final Four.

"Obviously, we are excited," said John Koerner, the chairman of the Southeast Regional host committee. "Anytime you get those great athletes coming to town and their fans are following them it's good for business, it's great for spectators -- and it helps fill out hotels. So we are happy about that.

"The reason we do this is for civic pride. The whole group has come together just to support this as a civic event, and New Orleans is wonderful in supporting those kinds of events historically. That's why we continue to get Final Fours and Super Bowls and all those kinds of great events because we do such a good job."

When the Southeast Regional begins at the New Orleans Arena, it'll mark the start of a two-year stretch of major national sporting events in the Crescent City.

After the Southeast Regional, New Orleans will host the 2011 BCS championship game, the 2012 Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament, followed by the 2012 NCAA Final Four, then the 2013 Super Bowl and the 2013 NCAA Women's Final Four.

Mixed in with those major events, the city will also host its annual events such as the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Zurich Classic, Ironman 70.3, Crescent City Classic and Mardi Gras Marathon, as well as this summer's AAU Junior Olympics.

While New Orleans has long been a destination spot for major sporting events, the upcoming run should keep the city in the nation's spotlight for some time.

"I would venture to say that it is an unprecedented run of some of the greatest sporting events that this country has to offer -- the BCS championship, NCAA Final Fours, the Super Bowl," said All State Sugar Bowl COO Jeff Hundley, who is doubling as the co-director of the local host committee. "This is a fantastic time to be in New Orleans and to be a sports fan."

Landing such sporting events and preparing to pull them off hasn't been an easy task. That's why members of the local host committee said they have joined forces with a collection of local sports executives and business leaders.

Hundley praised the combined efforts of the Tulane athletic department, which is serving as the NCAA's host university, as well as the New Orleans Sports Foundation and Sugar Bowl for joining forces. He and Koerner also said the Saints and Hornets have helped out as well as the local business community.

"You have great people here to organize those things behind the scenes," Koerner said. "It doesn't happen by accident. There's a huge effort that precedes some of these events by two to three years, getting everything scheduled, beginning to implement the plan, making sure we line up the requisite funds and getting everything put in order."

Said Hundley: "There is a lot of work, and it has taken three organizations and others to pull it all off with Tulane, the Sports Foundation and the Sugar Bowl, as well as the people and the Dome and the Arena. We have been planning for months, not only for this but looking forward to the Final Four in 2012 and the Women's Final Four the year after."

But they all agreed that success at this month's Southeast Regional is critical is getting the city off to a good start.

And so far, all the preparations are going according to script.

Vince Granito, the Tulane associate athletic director who served as the tournament host last year at New Orleans' first- and second-round site and is a member of the local host committee, said last year's two rounds of games at the Arena serves as a tune-up for the Regional.

"The models are similar between the first and second rounds and the Regionals," Granito said. "The difference is the stakes are higher. As you work your way up the pyramid, as you work your way up the food chain it's more attention to detail. You really want to make sure you have everything just right because you have more media."

Hundley agreed.

"Logistically, it has everybody's attention," Hundley said. "But I think you have veteran organizations starting with Tulane and then with the Sports Foundation and the Sugar Bowl. The Dome obviously has hosted all of these events. We've all done major events. And we think by combining forces we are even stronger together, and we are well prepared to put on a great show, one that will not only be fun and exciting but will be done at a level that makes the organizing group and the NCAA and others want to come back.

"We are competing against cities from around the country for the right to host some of these events. To have a packed house is going to go a long way in helping us land future events."

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Nakia Hogan can be reached at or 504.826.3405.

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