No ticket? No problem!
It's pure fandemonium during free Final Four practices: 16,000 show at Reliant
As Reliant Stadium geared up Friday for its much-anticipated weekend games, fans watching practice got a taste of what it's like to have a ticket.
Many of those who came out to take in the team practices, which were free and open to the public, did so because they lack tickets to the main event. For many, it is the only chance this weekend to see their teams up close and (almost) personal.
Katy couple Tom and Cindy Hanson (like "Mmmbop," says Cindy) arrived in matching Kentucky Wildcats T-shirts, and played hooky from work to crowd the first level of the stadium. They're without tickets to the actual games, and Tom tells us that if Kentucky takes it all on Monday, he plans to build a frame to scrapbook his stubs and other memorabilia.
Turnout was just enough to fill the center sections of the lower-most levels, but plenty of fans — many from already-eliminated teams — came out to get a first look at the transformed stadium. Concessions were open and aside from much more manageable crowds and easier maneuvering, it felt like any other major sporting event.
Attendance for the day was announced at 16,213, far below the record 29,000-plus that Indianapolis drew to last year's open Friday Final Four practices when there was a hometown team (Butler) in the field. But still plenty enough to impress the teams.
"That's more people watching practice than we've had at some games," VCU guard Brandon Rozzell said.
Stacy and Jordan Lindsey, who grew up together in small-town Kentucky, drove in from League City with their three-year-old daughter Audrey. But unlike others shirking their obligations to get a taste of the Final Four fandemonium, the trio has tickets to the semifinal games Saturday and the championship game Monday.
"I bought tickets about two seconds after the North Carolina game," Stacy says.
The couple moved to Houston five years ago for a job at NASA, and will be welcoming many of their much-missed extended family for the Final Four weekend. Everybody's scored tickets.
Texas A&M students Oliver Chen and Thomas Sizer weren't quite so lucky, but don't seem to mind. Lacking tickets (or a team in it), the two skipped class Friday and drove the hour and a half from College Station to be with the fans. Chen, a chipper junior chemical engineering major, says he usually cuts class on Friday, and Sizer, an aspiring kayak instructor, says he's not too bummed to be missing Econ.
Follow the fans with CultureMap as we hit the Tip-Off Tailgate tomorrow, or find us at the Big Dance.