NCAA Final Four hosted in KC still felt 30 years later

Posted at 3:23 PM, Mar 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-27 20:56:43-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three decades after Kansas City hosted the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, an organizer says the legacy has helped the metro hold other major sporting events.

Kemper Arena was the host for the 1988 Final Four, which included the Kansas Jayhawks.

Don Pfannenstiel helped oversee the 18-month preparation for the event for the Kansas City Organizing Committee.

On Tuesday, he told 41 Action News that the Final Four brought all sorts of excitement to the area.

"Even then, the Final Four was a major sporting event," he explained. "Just the enthusiasm of people attending the event, you could see it."

The 1988 event marked the 50th anniversary of the Final Four, which Pfannenstiel said added to the significance of hosting. 

"It was the first Final Four in Kansas City in 24 years," he explained. "It allowed us to do a lot more things to build the public’s interest and attention."

30 years after the event, Pfannenstiel still has mementos from the Final Four around his home.

A big booklet has pamphlets, pictures, programs, and other items that could be found around the city and Kemper Arena back in 1988 for the event.

His basement even features two posters and a banner commemorating the Final Four in Kansas City.

A separate display of sports memorabilia also has a special ticket from the event.

"There weren't tickets available for the public to buy. It was sold out many months in advance," he explained. "I don’t know how many people who knew I was working on this wanted to know if I had tickets."

Kansas won the 1988 tournament after beating the Oklahoma Sooners in the final.

Pfannenstiel said the event ended up providing plenty of memories for the city.

"The championship game is tied 50-50 at halftime. That’s still talked about," he explained. "It’s the 50th anniversary and the score at halftime is 50-50."

Decades later, Kansas City stands poised to host other similar sporting events.

The metro continues to be in the running to host the NFL Draft, World Cup, and NCAA women’s basketball Final Four.

Katherine Holland of the Kansas City Sports Commission said now more than ever the city is ready to be home for big sporting events.

"Kansas City is on the same radar as some of the bigger cities not only on the coast but also in the Midwest,” she explained. "We’re poised to do an even better job if we were ever in a position to host (the Final Four) or an event of that caliber in the future.”

Moving forward, Don Pfannenstiel said the legacy of the 1988 Final Four would remain in the metro.

"There’s still a lot of outstanding memories from that,” he explained. "That success I think helped continue Kansas City to be a host for major sporting events.”

In total, Kansas City has hosted 10 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four contests.

No other city has hosted the event more times.