NCAA Tournament: Jazz-related items covered at EnergySolutions Arena
SALT LAKE CITY — EnergySolutions Arena isn't so Jazz-y these days.
All Utah Jazz signage, including banners and retired jerseys, have been covered and/or rolled up for this week's NCAA Tournament games.
Jeff Sturgis, the director of production at ESA, said it's NCAA policy to provide a neutral environment. All tournament sites are to have the same look and feel.
"So all the brandings, including the Jazz inside the arena, is moved," he said while noting that the NCAA even brought in its own court and set up everything for the media.
"It's a whole lot different than the way we do it for Jazz games," Sturgis said.
The NCAA has a very detailed 480-page manual for tournament hosts to follow. The University of Utah is officially hosting the event, but is restricted to a pair of block "U" logos on the court near the benches and acknowledgement on a scorer's table banner.
Other than that, it's the NCAA's show.
"Basically they rent the building for the weekend and it is what it is," said Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor. It is somewhat similar to the 2002 Olympics when the arena was transformed into the figure skating venue.
That experience, he added, makes this one a little less strange. O'Connor said any inconvenience it causes the Jazz is secondary. The team is currently on a three-game road trip.
"I think it's terrific. Does it affect us? Yeah. But we've got to play 41 road games any way," O'Connor said. "What I like about it is it gives the rest of the nation a chance to see Salt Lake through basketball eyes."
Positive impressions have already been made.
O'Connor heard good things from longtime friends and current Syracuse coaches Jim Boeheim and Bernie Fine after the Orange worked out at the Jazz practice facility earlier in the day. They liked the city and the weather.
"It's a little bit of a Chamber of Commerce kind of thing," O'Connor said.
SNEAK PREVIEW: A couple of hundred fans attended Wednesday afternoon's free practice sessions at the arena. Among those watching Butler, Kansas State, Syracuse and Xavier work out was Viewmont High School junior Blake Wilkinson, who headed to Salt Lake City at lunch time and missed his final class period of the day.
"I just wanted to come see what great basketball was like up close — how they practice and what you've got to get to," said the basketball player.
Although he really doesn't have a favorite in the field, Wilkinson is eager to watch the games.
"I just want to see good basketball," Wilkinson said. "I want to see upsets, obviously, so I'm probably hoping Syracuse goes down."
DIFFERENT DIGS: Kansas State's streak of using NBA home locker rooms for NCAA Tournament games has come to an end. The Wildcats have been assigned one of the auxiliary set-ups at ESA. Last week at the Ford Center, they used the Oklahoma City Thunder's dressing room.
"That was an experience," junior forward Curtis Kelly said before comparing the facilities. "It's not like Oklahoma City's team locker room. But, you know, we're going to get used to it. We're going to make it our home."
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