Know Your NCAA Tourney Stadium: McKale Center, Pepsi Center, St. Pete Times Forum

The NCAA Tournament is chock-full of excitement from the first tip off. That’s why, sometimes, one of the more important items of the madness is overlooked: the stadiums. Well, not here at TicketCity – we cherish the stadiums that hold the games we love.

Throughout the week, we will be giving an overview of all the stadiums that will be (kinda) featured in the NCAA tournament. Because without them, all of our brackets would be busted from the go. Today, we’re featuring the McKale Center, Pepsi Center, St. Pete Times Forum.

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McKale Center
The McKale Center in Tuscon, Arizona, has been the home of the Arizona Wildcats for more than 38 years, but it was not until this year that it hosted an NCAA Tournament game. The venue has been tapped as the location for first and second round games March 17 and 19. 

Named after the former athletic director of the university, J.F. McKale, the center opened in 1973, and has been hosting Arizona home games ever since. As the home court of such a storied school, it’s not surprising that it has also played host to some legendary games over the years. Throughout the mid-90s, Arizona had one of the best programs in the country, and captured the 1997 National Title to prove it.

With an intimate setting that holds just over 14,500 spectators sitting right on top of Lute Olson Court, the McKale Center will certainly provide a unique experience for those in attendance. The arena has only hosted one other post-season event before – the 1988 Pac-10 Tournament. Arizona went on to win the conference tournament, beating Oregon State 93-67 in the finals.

Pepsi Center
Ever since its doors opened in 1999, the Pepsi Center has been one of the premier sports venues in the country. As the home arena of the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, the site has played host to everything from the Democratic National Convention to Frozen Four. The site has also been tapped to host first and second round action of the NCAA Tournament this year – the third time in its history.

Though it holds just under 20,000 people, the venue is not overwhelming, making it perfect for early round action. Previously, the arena was the site of first and second round games in 2004 and 2008. In ’04, the Pepsi Center hosted two of the most exciting games of the tournament, capped off by a thriller between fifth-seeded Syracuse and No. 4 seed Maryland.

The Orange won the game 72-70 behind 26 points from Hakim Warrick. Syracuse almost blew a 16-point second half lead and allowed Maryland to trim the score to 71-70, but the Orange held on.  That game followed the first round match up between Maryland  and UTEP, when the Terrapins barely held on to win 86-83.

St. Pete Times Forum
Few arenas are as versatile as the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay, Florida. This 15-year-old venue has hosted everything from Arena Football games to NHL games to concerts, and is slated to host first and second round games on March 17 and 19. 

However, it certainly is not a stranger to hosting tournament games. The St. Pete Times Forum was the location of first and second round games of the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2008. Additionally, it pulled double duty in ’08 as host of the women’s Final Four – a tournament won by Stanford.

It was in 2003 that the St. Pete Times Forum was the location of one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. After barely sneaking by No. 15 seed East Tennessee State in the opening round, second seeded Wake Forest fell victim to tenth seeded Auburn in the second round.

In 2008, upsets abounded again as both first round games in Tampa saw the higher seeds win – No. 13 Sienna downed No. 4 Vanderbilt and No. 12 Villanova upended No. 5 Clemson. 

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