PHOENIX – If you’re taking a trip down south for some sunshine and a first-hand look at the Zags in the Final Four, you might want to plan on some things to pass the time between Saturday and Monday evening.
For those sports junkies who want to scout all of Arizona’s athletics this weekend in between the semifinal showings and championship game, this former Phoenician has a few items to add to the to-do list.
Of course, we have to begin with the long list of events surrounding the Final Four. Phoenix is hosting several events throughout the weekend that will keep any fan busy between the last two showings of the Big Dance. For those bringing along the kiddos for some Final Four fun, downtown Phoenix has you covered.
On Sunday at 11 a.m., children (17 years old and younger) can participate in Final Four Dribble. Kids will be given their own NCAA basketball and can partake in a parade of dribblers that will begin at Heritage and Science Park. Parents will need to register their kids on the NCAA webpage. The event is free and includes a free shirt and a ticket to the Final Four Fan Fest in downtown Phoenix.
The Final Four Fan Fest, at the Phoenix Convention Center, will be open Friday through Monday. Along with vendors, live music and a look at the NCAA championship trophy, the fest will also feature a number of basketball greats, such as former NBA stars Steve Nash and Mike Bibby, and NCAA broadcasters, like Dick Vitale and Jay Williams. The fest’s special guests will be available for autographs at various times in the Final Four Fan Zone.
Before heading to the games on Saturday and Monday, fans can also catch the Zags during practice. All four teams participating in the NCAA will have open practices on Friday that are free to the public. Gonzaga’s open practice will run for 50 minutes beginning at 12 p.m. South Carolina’s open practice begins an hour earlier, at 11 a.m. Oregon’s and North Carolina’s open practices begin at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.
For more information on what the NCAA has planned, go to www.ncaa.com.
Scouting the professionals
The Final Four couldn’t have fallen on a better weekend in Arizona, at least if you’re one to enjoy an warm afternoon at the baseball stadium. It’s the last weekend of spring training before Major League Baseball’s opening day on Monday, and a number of teams are playing in their spring-training facilities across the greater Phoenix area.
The Mariners have two more games this week before heading to Houston on Monday for their first official game of the season against the Astros. Seattle hosts the Rockies on Friday at 6:40 p.m. at the Mariners’ stadium, the Peoria Sports Complex, in Peoria, Arizona. The M’s play their final game of spring training on Saturday at 12:10 p.m. at Colorado’s stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona.
If you want to stick to the basketball scene, the Phoenix Suns will be in town this weekend at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix. The Suns host the L.A. Clippers on Thursday at 7 p.m. for Latin Night in which the first 5,000 fans will get a free shirt. The Suns will play again on Sunday at 6 p.m. in Phoenix against the Houston Rockets.
If you don’t want to venture too far from Glendale where the Zags will be, you could take a trip across the street to visit the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. They’ll be hosting the Washington Capitals on Friday at 7 p.m.
Get around the college town
OK, OK. You came all the way to Phoenix to see one of the nation’s biggest collegiate sporting events. It’s obviously a weekend for those die-hard college fans. Sorry to disappoint, but Arizona State, located in Tempe, Arizona, has only a few sporting events slated for this weekend.
ASU baseball will be in town all weekend hosting the UCLA Bruins. Their triple-header begins Friday at 6:30 p.m. and ends on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
ASU women’s tennis will also be in Tempe on Friday playing the Oregon Ducks at 1:30 p.m.
Since you’re in Tempe …
You might as well head to one of Tempe’s biggest attractions – Mill Avenue. This stretch of clothing stores, ice cream shops, and sports bars and restaurants is located just off the ASU main campus.
Mill Avenue is home to places like The Handlebar, Gordon Biersch, World of Beers, Zipps (no, not Zip’s) and Mellow Mushroom. There are a few popular sites just off the Mill Avenue walkway. Devil’s Advocate, just on the other side of campus, and Four Peaks, a couple blocks east of the Mill Avenue scene, are a couple great places to find a variety of refreshments on tap and watch your favorite team on television.
Downtown Phoenix also has its fair share of sports bars and restaurants to check out. Places like Majerle’s Sports Grill, owned by ex-NBA great Dan Majerle, and Coach’s Corner Grill are some of Phoenix’s favorites. Alice Cooper’stown, a clever combination of Rock legend Alice Cooper and the home of baseball’s Hall of Fame, is also a popular site just off the light rail next the Chase Field – the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Not your normal sport fan
There are a variety of alternative sporting events in the surrounding cities that fans can enjoy in between the Final Four frenzy. The South Buckeye Equestrian Events Center in Buckeye, Arizona, is hosting its 40th annual rodeo on Friday and Saturday that will feature professional rodeo contestants.
Water sports fans can go to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona, to watch high-octane boat racing on Saturday and Sunday where professional racers power their boats to as fast as 250 mph.
Follow along with the Zags
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