Just over 6,000 tickets sold for games in Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Thousands of tickets remained unsold Friday for the first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games next week at the Hartford Civic Center.

Just over 6,000 tickets had been purchased by Friday afternoon for Sunday's four first-round games and Tuesday's two second-round games, University of Connecticot and Civic Center officials said. The arena can seat up to 14,836 for each game.

Hartford is hosting eight teams in two brackets, including the Huskies as the top seed in the Fresno Region and defending national champion Maryland, which is seeded second in the Dayton bracket.

"Our goal is to sell every seat, so in that respect we're a little disappointed," said Martin Brooks, senior vice president and general manager of Madison Square Garden, Connecticut, which manages the Civic Center. "But it's a respectable number, and hopefully over the next couple of days, we'll sell more tickets."

Hartford has sold more tickets than any of the other seven subregional sites across the nation, Brooks said.

Despite a winter storm that dropped several inches of snow on the area, no problems were reported Friday getting the teams into Hartford.

"It's been 80 degrees in Texas the last two or three weeks, so it was kind of a surprise," said Ryan Shultz, a spokesman for Texas Christian University, after his team's charter flight landed at Bradley International Airport on Friday afternoon. "Fortunately, it's an indoor sport."

Separate hotels have been booked for each team and its fans, said Curt Jensen, who is coordinating the event for the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"The host hotels try to make the players and their fans feel like it's their hotel," he said. "Sometimes they greet the teams with music, like the theme to 'Rocky.' A lot of them will have video highlights of their team playing in the lobby. Sometimes the staff dresses up in team colors."

The bureau has a representative at each hotel, pointing visitors to the regions' tourist destinations and restaurants.

The NCAA and the city have also launched a marketing campaign with newspaper, radio and TV ads, billboards, banners and posters to let people know the tournament is in town.

The visitors bureau estimates the tournament will have an economic impact of more than $1 million on the area, with over 2,000 overnight bookings at local hotels.

A ticket for all six games costs $75 for adults and $45 for children. The NCAA also is offering single-session tickets for admission to two games. Those are $25 for adults and $15 for children.

Fans also can catch the teams for free Saturday, when they hold open practices at the Civic Center.

Sunday's noon session features the Dayton bracket with No. 7 seed Ole Miss playing No. 10 TCU, and No. 2-seed Maryland taking on No. 15 Harvard.

The four teams in the Fresno bracket begin play at 7 p.m. with No. 8 seed New Mexico facing No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay, followed by No. 1 Connecticut and No. 16 UMBC in the Fresno bracket.

UConn's game is not expected to start before 9:30 p.m., a fact that may be contributing to the slow ticket sales.

"The NCAA sets the brackets and the pairings," Brooks said. "We'll take UConn no matter what time they are playing."