BUFFALO, NY – Final preparations are underway for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament at the Key Bank Center on Thursday and Saturday.
This evening, 100 volunteers who will put in 300 hours of work on game days were due to meet for final instructions on their role in helping Buffalo put its best foot forward, according to Patrick Kaler, President and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.
“They're acting as our ambassadors so when people are going out of the arena between games they’ll be there to tell them where to eat or drink, and to direct them to sites of interest during the off-day on Friday,” Kaler told WGRZ-TV.
Kaler noted that there are more amenities for fans than just three years ago when the tournament last visited.
"If you think about 2014, Harbor Center and Canalside were still under construction. But now there are 25 more restaurants and close to 500 new hotel rooms in the downtown area," he said.
One thing Buffalo still can’t offer visitors is ride sharing, so an effort to better coordinate taxis is afoot, with certain streets near Canalside designated as pick up and drop off zones.
“This is something new this year, having a place for all the taxis to marshal themselves and to be standing ready for fans, which helps with our overall flow of people leaving the arena. There’s also “Curb”, the taxi app, that people can call up on their phone and call for a taxi very quickly," Kaler said.
TEAMS ARRIVE EARLY DUE TO WEATHER:
Four of the seven teams currently slated to play (the eight team will be determined in a “play-in game between Mount St. Mary’s & New Orleans on Monday night) are arriving one day earlier than normal in an effort to get ahead of a winter storm which will impact much of the northeast.
Villanova, Princeton, West Virginia, and Bucknell were on their way to Buffalo on Monday afternoon, according to sources, with Bucknell and West Virginia busing in.
With the winter storm bearing down on Buffalo, it may impact the ability of some fans to get to the Queen City to follow their teams, but Kaler doesn’t forecast any problems for them once they get here to enjoy the games.
“Hopefully it won’t,” said Kaler. “I think people coming to Buffalo expect to find some snow anyway. Our streets departments are experienced at plowing, and by Thursday (when the tournament begins) it is forecast that the snow will be over and I expect all the streets will be clear,” he said.
THE PRICE YOU WILL PAY:
As of Monday afternoon, the price for tickets for opening round games the on StubHub ranged from $65 to $225 each. Tickets are for “sessions” which means each ticket holder is can see two games back to back.
Tickets for session three on Saturday (good for the two games featuring the winners from round one) were fetching anywhere between $120 and $525 each.