SDSU prepares to play host to NCAA basketball tournament


San Diego State’s Viejas Arena will host an NCAA basketball championship tournament this week. File photo.

by Lauren J. Mapp, Staff Writer

Hosting a NCAA championship basketball tournament for the second time in four years, San Diego State is preparing for an increase in traffic and the demand for parking as the tournament grows nearer.

An estimate of 11,000 people will attend the NCAA tournament at SDSU throughout the weekend, said Shaun Brown, Parking Operations manager.

To ensure similar standards across tournament sites, the NCAA will be bringing in its own physical court and hoops, said Mike May, senior associate athletic director of communications and media relations.

“(NCAA) brings in their own hoops and they try to standardize the event so that’s there are similarities between all eight sites for this round,” May said. “They try to standardize it, so everything from bringing in their own court, to press row set up, to the interview schedule, things for the media are similar from site to site. They really try to make the experience for the athletes at the different schools as similar as possible.

Additional law enforcement and K-9 units will be present on campus during the tournament, which will include campus, city and federal agents, said university police Lt. Ronald Broussard.

To accomodate for the expected influx of traffic and parking, March 16 will be a non-instruction day for students throughout the campus, but the campus — including Love Library — will remain open.

As part of the planning process, those involved evaluated the experience of hosting March Madness in 2014, as well as sought advice from schools that have hosted the tournament since then..

Preparation for the tournament began in October and was a collaborative effort between SDSUPD, city and county law enforcement, the City of San Diego Department of Emergency Management, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Athletics, Viejas Arena and SDSU Parking and Transportation Services.

“It was a collaborative thing because what happens is that it’s going to affect all of San Diego, depending on what teams are playing,” Broussard said. “We always collaborate with all of our stakeholders to make sure everything goes smoothly and to make sure we service the people at San Diego State and make sure our community is protected.”

Even before recent school shooting events, Broussard said a game plan was in development as a preventative measure in case of an active shooter or terrorist event. Threat assessments will take place throughout the tournament, as they do throughout the academic year.

“Even though it’s the (NCAA) basketball game, our students are still our priority,” Broussard added.

Parking on the west side of SDSU in Lots 7, 12, 6 and 3 will be used for tournament attendees at a cost of $15 per car. Level 8 in Lot 12 will be reserved solely for handicapped parking, Brown said.

“We would like to advocate that people park on the east side of campus who are not attending the event because we are expecting a lot of vehicle traffic,” Brown said.

Since the gates for Viejas Arena open an hour and a half before the session begins, the busiest times for traffic in the College Area will be about an hour before the first game, Brown added.

Session one on March 16 will begin with Marshall University vs. Wichita State University at 10:30 a.m., followed by Murray State University vs. West Virginia University 30 minutes after it ends. Session two begins with College of Charleston vs. Auburn University at 4:27 p.m., followed by New Mexico State University vs. Clemson University 30 minutes later.

A schedule for March 18 is still to be determined.