Wednesday, March 11, 2020

March Madness in KillaCity: Phugg a Coronavirus...,

bizjournals |  The Big 12 men's and women's basketball tournaments still will have crowds in Kansas City, despite a decision by the NCAA to bar fans from coming championship events out of fears the coronavirus will spread at its events.

The ban includes the men's Division I basketball tournament known as March Madness. Big 12 Director of Media Services Joni Lehmann said in an email to the Kansas City Business Journal that as of Wednesday afternoon, fans would be allowed in Wednesday evening's games, beyond that, she said she could not offer any additional information.

The NCAA released a statement Wednesday afternoon that will effectively bar fans from attending any championship because of concerns about large crowds congregating as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the U.S. The statement said, in part, that the games will have only essential staff and limited family attendance.

The NCAA statement made specific reference to the NCAA basketball tournament but did not mention the conference-specific tournaments that are taking place this week. Downtown Kansas City and Sprint Center have played host to the men's Big 12 basketball tournament for the past several years, and the event provides a big boost for regional tourism and hotels, while offering a spotlight for Sprint Center and the larger downtown area.

The women's Big 12 basketball tournament is returning to Kansas City and Municipal Auditorium for the first time since 2012. On Wednesday afternoon, fans in the Kansas City Power & Light District and the area around Sprint Center began gathering for Wednesday's games.

Many fans were in nearby bars and restaurants while small crowds began trickling in, awaiting a decision on the game. The men's tournament was set to begin its first round of games at 6 p.m. Wednesday with the tournament wrapping up Saturday. The women's tournament starts at 6 p.m. Thursday and is scheduled to end on Sunday.