Kansas City played a prominent role in the development of the NCAA Tournament. Former Kansas coach Phog Allen put the event on firm ground when he helped persuade the organization to bring the second tournament to Kansas City and four-year-old Municipal Auditorium.
The NCAA moved its national headquarters to Kansas City in 1952 and started a run of six Final Fours at Municipal over the next 11 years.
The event outgrew the 10,000-seat building, and as the NCAA Tournament expanded, bidding for the Final Four and earlier rounds grew more intense. Kansas City opened Kemper Arena in 1974, and the building served as host of the 50th Final Four in 1988.
But by the mid-1990s, the Final Four was no longer scheduled for traditional-sized basketball arenas. Domes and football stadiums were required to handle the demand. And when Jackson County voters defeated a bond issue in 2006 that would have paid for a rolling roof that could cover Arrowhead Stadium, the city lost its chance at future Final Fours.
The 76th Final Four tips off later this week in Arlington, Texas, and before the event reaches 100 years old, Kansas City might be passed on some historical lists.
But for now, Kansas City remains the destination for the most NCAA regional championship games (17), Final Fours and national title games (10) and NCAA Tournament games (128). Here’s what happened in those Final Fours, along with the evolution of the championship program, from 15 cents to $6.
Photos courtesy of Jim Bendat 1940