NCAA Final Four

Multiple Locations, United States

CHALLENGE. The little secret of big-picture thinking is it only works if you get the details right. The NCAA Final Four shows why. Converting a football stadium into a basketball venue demands meticulous planning and architectural expertise. Our team takes on the task each year.

INNOVATION. Behind the scenes of this multi-day spectacle, our team helps deliver the show invisibly. Headsets and face-to-face teamwork grease the wheels of communication. We think three steps ahead, neutralizing potential issues and helping the week go off without a hitch.

In the months of planning leading up to the event, we share planning tools and methods with our clients at the NCAA and other partners that leave no stone unturned. We touch all facets of the Final Four, from the games themselves to the entertainment and hospitality events that lead up to them.

Long days turn into late nights, but the surest sign of a successful Final Four is how much fun we have together. It takes chemistry and camaraderie to solve complex problems or avoid them altogether.

  • College basketball’s pinnacle event brings together four fanbases and a host city for nearly a week of exciting events.

IMPACT. The pursuit of a championship brings out the best in people. It’s no different behind the scenes. Since 2011, we’re proud to be a part of the team delivering the event that turned an entire month “mad.”

Services Provided

The Final Four is a staple of American sports, the culmination of a tournament that takes over an entire month. As the semifinal and championship games have grown in scale, so too have the festivities that surround them. From FanFests and free concerts to award shows and after parties, it’s now more accurate to describe the Final Four as a series of events that coalesce into one unforgettable experience spanning the better part of a week. To make it all happen requires years of advance planning and precise coordination among stakeholders.

Chief among those stakeholders is the host city. With the Final Four rotating between a growing group of cities each year, Populous and the NCAA develop relationships in a short window to help each host re-acclimate to the whirlwind of welcoming over 100,000 guests across several venues around the host city. Thanks to our rapid event startup, training and program of templates, we are there as a partner to help the city and venues actively engage in the planning process. For the NCAA, we are the glue that holds everything together, the single point of contact that surveys the entire landscape and helps choreograph the madness.


A key component of gameday operations is credentialing. By virtue of the trust the NCAA places in us to tackle a wide scope of work, accreditation is part of the conversation from the onset of advance planning. This holistic approach means all the nuances get ironed out early. Accreditation zones are designed in concert with other workflows. The result is an accreditation program that has quickly become the gold standard of the industry. 

This streamlined approach extends to the half dozen other events that surround the games themselves. Whereas it used to be common to see a jumble of lanyards around someone’s neck, credentialed guests can now rely on one for all their needs. Whether their work takes them to the stadium, the convention center or elsewhere, one credential gets them where they need to go, plain and simple. 

Issuing all those passes is our dedicated team of accreditation specialists. They live and breathe the work, deploying to some 60-plus events a year. The sensitive and secure nature of the work demands it. Handing someone a high-level credential is essentially handing them the keys to the kingdom, so we treat credentials like a bank treats cash. Our rigid quality standards stand up to regular audits.


Thanks to the Final Four’s center court configuration, the games themselves now each draw upwards of 80,000 fans. Each venue presents its own unique challenges, but the end goal is still the same: to infuse a basketball feel into a football stadium. To accomplish this, we stretch a building to its limits and transform its architecture using temporary solutions.

There’s the seats themselves. In the lower level roughly 7,000 temporary seats are installed over 5,000 permanent ones, optimizing sightlines along the way. The increase in lower level capacity brings with it a host of other overlay design challenges to solve, everything from increasing concession locations and bathroom capacities to adjusting acoustics so sound hits the new stands just right. Up above, a massive temporary scoreboard hovers less than 50 feet above the court. For many host venues, it’s the centerpiece of the most complex rigging setup their rafters will ever see.


When it’s go time, we roll up our sleeves and get to work side-by-side with our NCAA partners. Our job is to make sure every space is ready to operate as intended, that the plan adheres to the design. As the space minders, we help orient each individual space’s respective captain on the design when they arrive. When it comes right down to it, our job is to make sure everyone can do their job to the best of their abilities and we are all able to a deliver a seamless event.

Years Designed
New Orleans
San Antonio
New Orleans