NCAA’s March Madness is known for creating one-of-a-kind moments for student-athletes and fans and doing it innovatively year after year, even from the moment of site selections. Birmingham last hosted a March Madness game in 2008, so when given the opportunity on behalf of the City of Birmingham and the SEC, Knight Eady was committed to showcasing the recent improvements to our city and the venue and successfully executing all aspects of the tournament.
After partnering with the SEC, the host institution, Knight Eady submitted a competitive bid to the NCAA in February 2020. In October of that year, Knight Eady received news that the SEC was awarded the bid to host the First and Second Round of March Madness in Birmingham. Considering the capacity requirements of their own conference championships, the SEC tapped Knight Eady to plan, execute, and manage this event knowing it would take a dedicated team, organization, and time.
We assembled the team and got to work on creating the infrastructure that would ensure the event’s success. In December of 2022, we were set to host the C.M. Newton Classic, a neutral-site college basketball game between Alabama and Gonzaga in Legacy Arena, the venue selected for Birminghams’ March Madness.This game was an opportunity to utilize the venue as it would be set in March, and we invited the NCAA and other key partners for a site visit during the game.
The value Knight Eady provided to the NCAA by having the C.M. Newton Classic as a site visit opportunity and trial run for March, was a critical step in giving the NCAA a chance to proactively make adjustments, as Birmingham was selected site-unseen.
In advance of the NCAA’s December visit to Birmingham, we continued coordination with all host hotels, security detail, transportation, and Fixed Based Operations (FBO), to ensure the NCAA’s standards and expectations were communicated. That diligence in planning enabled the NCAA to maximize its time in Birmingham touring hotels, reviewing security plans, confirming transportation vendors and creating travel plans with FBO. Following these productive meetings with vendors and key stakeholders, the venue was ready to host the NCAA for their official walk-through.
Birmingham successfully sold out of all sessions before the teams were announced, and the Magic City was ready for the Madness to return.
On Selection Sunday in March, Knight Eady watched with the nation and learned the teams we would host. Reasonable assumptions anticipated Alabama as our number one seed, but as a newer site, we didn’t expect to host a second number one seed and the two local seeds, Auburn and Alabama. We knew this was the last ingredient needed in a recipe for an unforgettable First and Second Round.