From BBQ to a party brunch: The Big 12 tournament fan experience extends beyond Sprint Center

big 12 bbq
Posted at 6:55 AM, Mar 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-15 08:21:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before basketball games tip off inside the Spring Center for the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference men’s basketball tournament, the fan experience begins across Grand Boulevard in the KC Live! block of the Power and Light District.

The entertainment venue complete with bars, restaurants and a giant courtyard space nicknamed The Living Room hosts the Miller Lite FanFest, which includes spirit rallies with each team, watch parties on a giant video screen and a party brunch (new this year).

Beginning March 14 and running through March 17, several of the district’s restaurants will offer a special brunch menu from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Marketing Manager Gabby Cutrera said the restaurants normally don’t serve brunch, so this offers something special for visitors in town for the basketball games and people who live in Kansas City year-round.

“We have a lot of great restaurants here at KC Live! and we haven’t really dipped into the brunch world much before. We figured we have all these people here, we can bring them in early and start feeding them early to kind of kick start their day,” she explained.

The director of entertainment said it takes several 15 hour days turning the courtyard into FanFest location, but it’s worth it when the crowd roars.

“You feed off that energy. Right when you get into a little lull, something great happens in a game and you’re right back into it,” Jason Bradley said.

And right on Grand Boulevard near 14th Street, barbecue pitmasters work under a tent as part of a National BBQ League sanctioned event.

Each pitmaster represents a different team in the basketball tournament. Thursday afternoon judges grade each pitmaster in four categories: chicken, ribs, brisket and pork.

National BBQ Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Trigg is one of the participants. He’s representing the University of Texas and said he hopes to redeem his basketball team’s loss by winning the BBQ competition.

“More than the cash prize, I want to win for some Texas pride,” said the 80-year-old from Alvarado, Texas.