Memorial Gym has been transformed. Well, at least for a few days.
Fans stepping into Vanderbilt's basketball home in the coming days to attend NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament games will notice a few changes have taken place inside the gym since the Commodores wrapped up the regular season.
To comply with the NCAA Tournament hosting requirements set forth by the NCAA, Vanderbilt's staff has been working overtime to get the gym ready for tipoff. New logos have been placed on the court, all advertisements have been covered on the jumbotron and facades, and signage ... lots of signage has been added in and outside the gym.
To a casual observer, being a host site for the NCAA Tournament may seem as simple as opening the doors on gameday, but in reality it is light years from being that easy of a process.
Since the official announcement was made by the NCAA in 2010 that Vanderbilt was chosen as a host site for first and second round games of the 2012 tournament, Vanderbilt's administration and staff have taken part in countless meetings to prepare for the many intricacies of hosting an event of this magnitude.
All of those meetings will finally come to fruition this weekend as teams arrive in Nashville for the Big Dance. Teams will start arriving to town on Friday and will all be at Memorial Gym on Saturday for practice sessions and press conferences.
Vanderbilt will tip the tournament off Sunday against Middle Tennessee State at 4:10 p.m. CT (ESPN2). The game will be followed by second-seeded Duke playing Samford. The winners of the two games will meet in the second round at 8:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday.
"Hosting the NCAA Basketball Championships has been a major process that has taken a lot of time and effort from much of our staff, and we are excited to see all the hard work pay off this weekend," said Candice Lee, associate director of Vanderbilt athletics and also the tournament director. "We believe hosting these championship events bring outstanding exposure to the university and we strive to host more in the future."
The process of transforming the look inside Memorial Gym began a few weeks ago, but shifted into a frenetic pace early this week. At that time, advertisements began to be covered, logos were placed on the floor and signage was hung.
The most visible transformation was the creation of four distinct band pits and an extended media seating area on the student-section side of the gym floor. Two band pits fill each end of the gym and the media seating connects the band areas by stretching across the length of the floor, filling the first few rows typically occupied by Vanderbilt's student section. The benches were removed and replaced by tables covered by black skirts and table cloths.
Behind the scenes, pipe and drape were placed in media areas for press conferences and extra media work space. Vanderbilt also had to make room for additional team and NCAA staff personnel. With four teams making Memorial Gym their home for the next few days, Vanderbilt has also had to designate new locker room space and share other areas typically reserved just for the Commodores.
The Commodores will continue to use their regular locker room and MTSU will use the locker room always used by visiting teams. Samford will use the men's basketball locker room and Duke is using locker room space that was constructed this past summer specifically for hosting this event. All four teams will also share training room space in the gym and the usual film/meeting room has been converted into the interview room, while the regular interview room has been designated as a media holding area and storage room.
Even though the games are being held at Memorial Gym, there are many changes taking place inside the building that will make it feel and look very different from any other home game Commodore fans have attended this season.
To get a visual for the changes, be sure to watch this video of scenes from inside the gym.