180 degree turn for Lucas Oil Stadium



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Lucas Oil Stadium prepares for NCAA March Madness Image: WTHR

The football pitch of the Lucas Oil Stadium located at Indianapolis in the US State of Indiana is being mutated/turned on its head in preparation for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament scheduled to begin from March 18th, 2021.

The home field of top-flight National Football League (NFL) team Indianapolis Colts, the 70,000-capacity Lucas Oil Stadium, is a multipurpose stadium in downtown Indianapolis (US).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that governs college basketball and regulates student athletes from up to 1,268 North American institutions and conferences.

The WTHR website stated that the stadium will host all the rounds of the tourney – the Elite Eight, Final Four and the national championship game and let in only 25 percent spectators for all days of play as the United States is still hanging by a thread as far as the coronavirus situation is concerned.

The construction workers recently went to work, restructuring the grounds not only for the teams, but also for the fans.

The WTHR website further informed that Lucas Oil Stadium Director Eric Neuburger has been working closely with the NCAA in the transformation of the arena. Although the stadium has let in crowds for ticketed events since July 2020, this tournament with players, coaches, trainers, therapists and others streaming in from all over the country will be the most important event they’ve hosted since the pandemic began.

“We are always under pressure. We enjoy that pressure. We thrive under that pressure. We are a venue that prides itself on doing the biggest events for the most people. This will be a little different this year, but that pressure still remains,” Neuburger commented.

Although the venue has hosted the Final Four in 2010 and 2015 and will do so once again in 2026, the challenge lies in converting the football ground into basketball courts.

“In order to go from a football field to the basketball court, it takes a lot of planning and normally this would go on over the course of years. As a Stadium Director and throughout my career, the thing that makes me the most excited is the energy that comes with big events and that’s something we’ve been missing,” Neuburger remarked.

The entire tournament will be held in Indiana, with 55 of the 67 games to be played in Indianapolis.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than that. We feel like we are going to be the center of the basketball universe,” Neuburger added.

This year two courts would be set up to allow that much-needed interval to clean in between games.

The crew has also erected structures to mount the center-home displays that will have video screens and scoreboards fit on to it to make the fan experience special.

“This time we are kind of going back to our roots when we would host the Final Four at the Hoosier Dome or RCA Dome and it would be on one half of the football field. So that’s what we are trying to recreate here,” he said.

Demolished in 2008, the RCA Dome originally the Hoosier Dome at Indianapolis, was the former home of the Indianapolis Colts.

Neuburger said there would be limited seating, not just for the public, but for others. The team benches would also have a different look to allow room for social distancing.

“We are really dedicated to making sure social distancing is on display at this event and we have the space to do it,” he said.

Spectator safety being uppermost, Lucas Oil Stadium will put into place all the extra safety protocols similar to what had been done during the Indianapolis Colts’ season. Spectators will have to wear face covers, get a contactless payment system at concession stands and digital tickets. The venue will also be cleaned and disinfected during the tournament.

The NCAA in collaboration with Marion County Public Health Department have put together the strictest of COVID-19 health and safety protocols to be used during the tournament.

Things couldn’t have got stricter with each participant required to have seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests. The NCAA will work with IU Health to provide “health-related support including administration of daily PCR tests for Tier 1 individuals upon arrival and throughout the tournament”.

Tier 1 individuals include student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff, and officials.

Participants will also be required to wear contact tracing devices from KINEXON during games and practices. NCAA said the devices will provide data that helps them track if someone was in close contact with an individual who tested positive for the fatal respiratory disease.

Germany’s Munich-based KINEXON is a leading provider of smart technologies that optimizes an organization’s operations. KINEXON SafeZone boasts the world’s most reliable digital solutions for ultra-precise contact warning and highly efficient contact tracing.

People that had both doses of the vaccine at least two weeks before the tournament and haven’t tested positive for COVID-19 in 90 days do not have to undergo testing.

“Our emphasis is on the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline.

“By working with local health officials to develop protocols and administer COVID-19 testing, we are confident we will provide a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, administrators and officials,” he added.

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