Dayton’s First, First Four Festival

NCAA March Madness Kicks Off In Dayton

By Maha Kashani

It’s almost that time of year when it seems as though everyone comes down with a case of Spring’s most popular catching disease, caused by one of the world’s most-watched sporting events: March Madness Fever. Who would have ever thought that the cobblestone streets of the historic Oregon District would serve as the catalyst for this epidemic in 2012?

Bragging rights are once again up for grabs in this high profile NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament to determine a national champion, and the road starts here as Dayton once again prepares to host the First Four games on March 13 and 14 at the University of Dayton Arena.

The University of Dayton has kicked off March Madness — also known as the “Big Dance” — each year since 2001, having hosted a single opening-round game from 2001-10. Once the tournament was expanded to 68 teams in 2011, Dayton was selected as host city for the inaugural First Four, consisting of four first-round games played over the course of two days. Last year, Dayton was the launching pad for Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), as they began their journey at the University of Dayton Arena and made it all the way to the Final Four (A true Cinderella story).

Given the first-class job University of Dayton Arena has done as host for more NCAA tournament games than any other venue in the country, it comes as no surprise that we have again been selected to host the First Four in 2012.

NCAA spokesman Greg Shaheen referred to the event as “one of the most respected venues in all of college basketball,” and the University of Dayton Arena has helped put Dayton back on a national stage by hosting. New this year, the First Four is expanding beyond the Arena and making its play for a unique experience in downtown Dayton.

Introducing the First Four Festival

What is the First Four Festival? This all-day celebration of college basketball is a family-friendly street party that will serve as the first-ever official kickoff to March Madness, taking place in downtown Dayton’s historic Oregon District! The NCAA’s First Four Local Organizing Committee has partnered up with the City of Dayton, University of Dayton, Wright State University and Wright Patterson Air Force Base to host this first-of-its-kind Selection Sunday Celebration.

Next week, some 37 million co-workers, basketball fans and non-basketball fans alike will be infected with March Madness Fever as this NCAA basketball tournament tips-off for a three week thrill. Many Americans will unite by joining an office betting pool. For those of us so lucky to be in Dayton, we have the exclusive opportunity to unite and experience something epic.

Tournaments rarely commence to celebrate their launch, but thanks to a highly creative and innovative local organizing committee, we are making history here in Dayton.

On Selection Sunday, March 11, downtown Dayton will be one of the nation’s hottest destinations as the Oregon District plays host to a street party like no other. Thousands will flock to the city for this unprecedented opportunity to paint the town red — or maybe orange, to fit the basketball theme.

Starting at noon, attendees will marvel at the U.S. Air Force’s official fly-over to kick off the day’s festivities. Guests will then be invited to explore the Oregon District and countless entertainment options that await them, including the NCAA First Four 4 Miler run around downtown Dayton, alumni “Hot Shot” Competition, 3-on-3 basketball games, live music, educational displays featuring the latest in Air Force technology, jumbotrons playing conference tournament championship games, the Selection Sunday Show, food, beverages and much more.

Rain or shine, the First Four Festival will block off the famous cobblestoned 5th Street corridor from Patterson Blvd. to Wayne Avenue. In addition to the street festival and a courtside club, there will be three main zones featured inside heated tents.

Getting in the zone

Sports & Entertainment Zone: This ultimate party atmosphere will feature various entertainment, live music, a local sports show broadcast, bracket contest and even an interactive ESPN Game Day-style booth, hosted by local celebrities where attendees can experience what it’s like to be reporting live from behind the sports desk.

Family Fun & Education Zone: This family-friendly atmosphere will host children’s activities, interactive displays, fun games and lots of great give-aways. Let your kids burn off some energy while you enjoy a bite to eat and an ice-cold beverage.

U.S. Air Force Experience Zone: This will be by far the most exciting atmosphere, with educational displays featuring the latest in Air Force Technology, a flight simulator, Tech exhibits and the much-anticipated “Hot Shot” Competition.

A few major highlights include:

NCAA First Four 4 Miler: Sign up to join the Miami Valley River Runners and 1000 expected participants for a trot through downtown Dayton, finishing in the Oregon District at the Festival. Advanced registration recommended, visit: to sign up. Cost: $25. Includes t-shirt.

“Hot Shot” Competition: Featuring alumni from the University of Dayton, Wright State University and the Air Force Academy, this thrilling “Hot Shot” Competition is a can’t miss.

Live Musical Entertainment: Once Selection Sunday concludes and everyone has their brackets to buzz about, it’s time for the real party to begin. Head over to the Main Stage to enjoy some live music and get your groove on with local bands playing live.

In addition to being one of the coolest things to ever happen in town, this is a big deal for our local economy. County Commissioner Judy Dodge emphasizes, “The economic impact is substantial for Dayton and our region.” Last year’s First Four had an approximately 4 million dollar economic impact on our community, even without the Festival. Making Dayton a Selection Sunday destination, in addition to the First Four games, will not only showcase our community on a national scale, but attract a lot of much-appreciated dollars to our region’s core.

Is parking a concern? Not this weekend! The city is providing free parking at the Transportation Center Garage by the Convention Center (101 E. 5th St), the City Hall Garage (123 W. 3rd St) and the Reibold Center Garage (131 S. Main St.) Or, take advantage of free parking at the University of Dayton Arena, and take their RTA shuttle to and from the event all day.

And if this isn’t enough to get you all hyped up, it is only the beginning of all the Madness! Make sure you purchase your tickets to actually see the First Four games at the University of Dayton Arena on March 13th & 14th, at 6:00p.m. and 9:00p.m. both nights. A four-pack of tickets to see all the games starts at only $80. Tickets can be purchased at:

To make things even more exciting, the NCAA has announced that Dayton will host the tournament’s “First Four” again in 2013 in addition to the second and third-round games of the championship, thanks to local fans who have helped the University of Dayton regularly rank among the top 30 nationally in Division I men’s basketball attendance. Plus, 2013 will be the 75th Anniversary of the NCAA, so we know everyone will be ready to celebrate. Talk about awesome!

Selection Sunday 2012 in Dayton’s Historic Oregon District will be a spectacle that you do not want to miss. From noon to 10:30p.m., downtown Dayton is the place to be for this community-wide street party full of big crowds, big-screen basketball and big-time fun for all. It’s time to show the nation that we can throw a party like nobody else.

Be proud Dayton, the Road Starts Here!

Reach DCP freelance writer Maha Kashani at

[Photo; NCAA]

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