For my birthday, I was planning on traveling to New York /Connecticut to see some friends and family. Imagine my surprise when I found out about the first round of the eastern region NCAA college basketball tournament was being played in Hartford, Connecticut.
It was a no brainer that I needed to be in the building, but the real question was how?
After selection Sunday, I began with submitting a media application with the NCAA. Sports Salsa is rapidly on the mission to becoming your sole provider on sports travel and event information on all sporting events. Unfortunately, that request was denied, and we are still unsure of the reasoning behind that. We reached out to the Media Coordinator who was in charge of distributing the credentials, we still have not heard back.
The next avenue we explored for tickets was reaching out directly to the schools participating. Our founder, Gene, remembered a few years back when he attended a round of the tournament, that he got his tickets for $10 directly from a school.
We tried this method, reached out to every school coming to the first round in Hartford. Unfortunately, every school was only offering tickets for $100 and it required a commitment to the second round if that team advanced. If we had been thinking we would have went this route. We ended up paying about $100 per seat, for the extreme upper levels. When we could have paid $100 to one of the schools, got a seat in the lower bowl, and then sold the Saturday ticket (if we would have had to commit to it).
We settled on purchasing tickets from a third-party ticket sales website, vividseats.com. No exaggeration, our seats were up so high there were TV’s on the wall to show what was happening on the court.
To save some money, instead of paying for parking (we had heard parking would be a mess downtown Hartford) we parked at my Grandma’s house and took a LYFT over to the XL Center. The ride was about $7.50 each way and dropped us off right in front of the entrance.
We also ate and drank before hand, figuring that concessions would be a little pricy at the event. We were doing so good, but at halftime of game two we needed a refreshment. Prices were comparable to sporting events all over the world, we paid about $11 for some French fries and a large soda.
Despite being so high up, the experience was still unmatched. There were clearly people there in our same boat, who paid a ton for tickets and were unimpressed with their seats. However, we were all locked into the basketball action happening all around. You can tell how invested everyone was because at every dead ball when they flashed into another close game going on, there was always a huge reaction.
We were treated to two excellent games in the first session. We saw Vermont take Florida State down to the wire. It was so intense because Vermont fans traveled very well. There was a sea of green throughout the entire stadium attempting to rally their team on to victory. Next, we saw Ja Morant and the Murray State Racers upset the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Between the walk up to our seats and the intensity of the basketball games, by the end of the night we were exhausted. Payton and I had to catch a quick 10 minute power nap at halftime. The whole time we wondered how people who had the full-day pass were going to be able to do it.
Ultimately it was a great time and I don’t regret a thing! It was 100% worth it to be in that atmosphere and hang out with sports fans from all over the world. Next year, there are some things we would do differently as far as coverage and tickets are concerned. However, no matter what Sports Salsa was still in the building to give you that real life take.