Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Northwestern Wildcats fans cheer during the game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 18, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — If all goes as hoped, March Madness could return to Vivint Arena as soon as 2019. The University of Utah has submitted bids to host the first two rounds or regional finals that year in order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the famed 1979 Final Four at the Special Events (now Huntsman) Center that pitted Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the championship game.

Utah has also sent in bids to host the first two rounds or regionals in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

“We’re hopeful that we can at least get that 2019 for the 40th anniversary of the Bird-Magic Final Four in Salt Lake City,” Steve Pyne, director of event and facility management for University of Utah athletics, said. “Hopefully we’ll get one. Because we really enjoy doing it, and I think the city enjoys having it here.”

Pyne, who has worked 14 tournaments and managed seven, said things went really, really well Thursday and Saturday.

Arena officials informed him that concession sales set a venue record for highest volume at a one-day event. Pyne said there was also positive news from area bars and restaurants.

“I think the city of Salt Lake shined this week with the tournament,” he added, while praising all the contributions — particularly from the Vivint Arena staff.

The bottom line for Pyne, though, is proving a great experience for the kids.

“I think it’s great to bring to the city,” said University of Utah athletics director Chris Hill. “Between our staff and the Jazz staff, to really want to do this with so much enthusiasm is great. It really is. It’s a great combination.

MR. TOURNAMENT: This week’s games marked the 17th NCAA tourney that former Utah sports information director Bruce Woodbury has worked and/or consulted.

“This is the greatest sports event in the country,” said Woodbury, who began his involvement by overseeing the 1979 Final Four.

Woodbury said he was 31 years old at the time and that he didn't have a clue what he was doing.

Mike Lageschulte, the tournament media director, said Woodbury is “such a huge asset” to the operation.

“We have a phrase ‘W3D’ — What would Woody do if you get into trouble,” Lageschulte said. “Because he’s done 17 of these tournaments, he’s done the Final Four and he did the tournament back-to-back years back in the ’80s. He’s just a tremendous resource. If there’s been a problem that needs to be solved, he’s solved it at some point.”

Lageschulte added that having Woodbury around — to offer advice or lighten the mood with a story — is just a lot of fun.

MEDIA MATTERS: Lageschulte and his staff distributed 185 credentials to the media. There were 34 photography passes issued, along with 42 to television and photo production assistants. CBS and Turner Sports had 80 credentialed people working the tournament.

New York Times Magazine, ESPN and a huge contingent from Chicago following Northwestern were among the media members in attendance.

“It’s been a great turnout,” Lageschulte said. “Probably one of the better ones we’ve had for the first and second round weekend.”

TICKET TALK: There were plenty of secondary market tickets being sold in front of Vivint Arena. National and local brokers were getting in excess of $300 for seats between the baskets in the lower bowl.

Bob Hunt of Premier Tickets in Salt Lake City said prices to this year’s NCAA Tournament games have been driven up because of Northwestern.

“If you look around there’s a lot of purple,” he said.

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

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