Times Union Center as seen on Jan. 11, 2018 in Albany.
Lori Van Buren2of44FILE – In this April 4, 2019, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament in Minneapolis. As Congress considers whether to allow college athletes to receive endorsement money, the NCAA and its allies spent nearly $1 million last year lobbying lawmakers to shape any reforms to the organization’s liking.Matt York/AP3of44
Continue viewing the slideshow to see photos from 2003, when Albany hosted the NCAA East Regional:
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings shoots the ball during the 3-on-3 basketball game that opened the 3-on-3 basketball tournament in conjunction with the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena on Feb. 18, 2003.
Albany County Executive Mike Breslin handles the ball as Greg Koubek defends during the 3-on-3 basketball game opening a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in conjunction with the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena on Feb. 18, 2003.
Albany County Executive Mike Breslin and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings warm up before a 3-on-3 basketball game that opened the 3-on-3 basketball tournament in conjunction with the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena on Feb. 18, 2003.
Tom Killips of Clifton Park, a Syracuse alum, sports his custom-made shoes in support of his team during the NCAA Basketball Fan Fest on Friday, March 28, 2003, outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany.
The Extreme Team entertains the crowd with their high-powered trampoline dunks Saturday, March 29, 2003, outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany.
NCAA basketball fans turn out for the Fan Fest on Friday, March 28, 2003, outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany.
Joseph Bacon, 7, of Little Rock, Ark. holds up his new NCAA basketball Friday, March 28, 2003, outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany.
Syracuse fan Mike Morrison, 10, of Baldwinsville hunts for tickets for himself and his father, Doug, during the NCAA Basketball Fan Fest on Friday, March 28, 2003, outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany.
Pepsi Arena operations director Doug McClaine carries an NCAA sign to replace a Nextel sign in the scoreboard at the Pepsi Arena in Albany March 26, 2003, in preparation for this weekend’s NCAA East Regional final in men’s basketball. Pepsi employee Tom Mink stands in a lift replacing the signs, while Bob Kirkpatrick, second from left, helps out. The scoreboard normally is raised near the rafters of the arena during events.
Pepsi Arena employees, from left to right; Jose Soler, Scott Wieczorkowski, Rick Lennox, and Nathan Sims (man at far right is unidentified) apply the finishing touches to a decal applied to center court at the Pepsi Arena on March 26, 2003, in Albany, N.Y., in preparation for the weekend’s NCAA East Regional final in men’s basketball. The decal has an adhesive, and will be removed at the tournament’s end. (Philip Kamrass/Times Union)
Pepsi Arena employee Gordon Derrick measures the height of one of the baskets (to make sure it is 10 feet high) at the Pepsi Arena in Albany pm March 26, 2003.
Albany officials pose for a photo during the kick off of the NCAA Basketball Fan Fest on Friday, March 28, 2003, outside the Pepsi Arena in Albany. From left are Mayor Jerry Jennings, Pepsi Arena general manager Bob Belber, Key Bank president Tom Geisel, and Albany County executive Michael Breslin.
Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim, center, talks during practice at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 27, 2003, as the team prepared for their Friday game against Auburn in this weekend’s NCAA East Regional game.
Albany police officer Robert J. Santaski, stands guard outside the Pepsi Arena Thursday during a team practice session on March 27, 2003.
Syracuse University fan Jim Dowd of Manlius strolls in the snow on South Pearl Street in front of the Pepsi Arena in Albany March 30, 2003, in hopes of getting a ticket for the Syracuse -Oklahoma game later in the afternoon, part of the NCAA East Regional. He said walking with the signs was more fun than getting a ticket.
Mark Pratt of Rensselaer hoses down the front steps of the Pepsi Arena on Saturday, March 29, 2003, in Albany. Pratt was cleaning up after Friday night’s NCAA East Regional games.
Syracuse University fans cheer their team during the NCAA Tournament in Pepsi Arena March 28, 2003.
Gov. George Pataki, center, watche the Syracuse-Auburn game on March 28, 2003.
Oklahoma’s Jabahri Brown scores against Butler on March 28, 2003.
Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick reaches for a rebound against Auburn on March 28, 2003.
An Oklahoma fan cheers her team during the NCAA basketball tournament in the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 28,2003.
Butler college fans cheer their team during the NCAA basketball tournament in the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 28, 2003.
Fans cheer during the NCAA Tournament in Albany’s Pepsi Arena on March 28, 2003.
Butler college fan Eric Romer cheers his team during the NCAA basketball tournament in the Pepsi Arena in Albany March 28, 2003.
Butler University guard Darnell Archey stretches on the floor of the Pepsi Arena in Albany during on March 27, 2003.
Butler University basketball team head coach Todd Lickliter talks to his team at the end of practice on the floor of the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY Thursday March 27, 2003.
Auburn basketball team head coach Cliff Ellis directs practice on the floor of the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 27, 2003, in preparation for his team’s game against Syracuse.
Syracuse University center Craig Forth picks 6-year-old Ethan Trudeau from a crowd of well-wishers at the Pepsi Arena in Albnany following practice on March 27,2003. Forth knows Ethan from the Parsons Child and Family Center
, where he does work. Forth graduated from Columbia High School in East Greenbush.
Syracuse University freshman star forward Carmelo Anthony, foreground, stands with his teammates at the end of practice at the Pepsi Arena on March 27, 2003.
Syracuse University freshman star forward Carmelo Anthony shoots a jump shot during practice at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY Thursday March 27, 2003.
Syracuse University center and Columbia High School graduate Craig Forth shoots during practice at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 27, 2003.
Syracuse freshman forward and game MVP Anthony Carmelo celebrates after beating Oklahoma on March 30, 2003.
Oklahoma fans look to the scoreboard, but didn’t have much to cheer about during Syracuse’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma on March 30, 2003.
Andrea Hayes of East Greenbush, left, cheers on her Syracuse University team along with Julie Conti of Rochester, right, during Syracuse’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 30, 2003.
Oklahoma’s Quannas White faces off against the Syracuse University defense during the first half of Syracuse’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 30, 2003.
Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson exhorts his team during the first half of their 63-47 loss to Syracuse University in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany pn March 30, 2003.
Syracuse University Craig Forth wrestles with Oklahoma’s De’Angelo Alexander during Syracuse’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on Sunday March 30, 2003.
Oklahoma’s De’Angelo Alexander tries to get by Syracuse University forward Jeremy McNeil during Syracuse’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 30, 2003.
Syracuse University forward Carmelo Anthony celebrates his team’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 30, 2003.
Syracuse University forward Carmelo Anthony dribbles out the clock during the final seconds of his team’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany on March 30, 2003.
Syracuse University freshman Nick Friedell of Orlando, Fla., sports orange and blue body paint while celebrating after his team’s 63-47 victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA East Regional at the Pepsi Arena in Albany.
The front page of the Albany Times Union on March 31, 2003.
The event Capital Region sports fans have waited for 17 years to return to the area is still scheduled for next week, but most fans won’t be able to cheer on their favorite teams from the stands.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced late Wednesday afternoon that all 67 of its men’s basketball tournament games, including six planned for Times Union Center, will be played without spectators because of concerns of the novel coronavirus.
Only essential staff, limited family members and media will be in attendance for all games, including those in the Final Four in Atlanta.
Four first-round games Thursday, March 19, and two second-round games Saturday, March 21, scheduled for downtown Albany are affected.
The spectator ban also extends to an NCAA hockey regional March 28-29 at Times Union C
This year marked the first time since 2003 that Albany was selected as a men’s tournament host site.
“It took us a long time to get them to come back,” Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said. “It was the investment in the Capital Center, the walkway, the $20 million expansion on the TU. It attracted them, so, unfortunately, it’ll probably be another six to 10 years before we get them back.”
Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber could not be reached immediately for comment but did post a Facebook message:
“It is a sad day for so many fans of NCAA Men’s Basketball as well as for the many players and coaches who will be playing the tournament in empty buildings due to the announcement made today by the NCAA. However, we respect this decision and we will do everything in our power at the Times Union Center to make the experience for the teams and the NCAA officials the best it can be given the circumstances. We hope that fans will enjoy the CBS broadcast of the games that take place in ‘your’ Times Union Center in Albany, NY.”
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Siena College are the tournament hosts.
“It’s disappointing that our fans won’t be able to come into the building, but it’s also the smart move on the part of the NCAA,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said. “They’re in a position now where states are starting to put restrictions, they have pre-existing contracts with arenas and beyond everything else, you have to worry about the health and safety of the athletes and the fans that are coming into town to attend the games. If we have a large congregation and it allows for the spread of the disease and then people go back to all their communities throughout the country, we could be spreading that in an enormous way.”
In announcing his decision, NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement that read, in part: “COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the United States, and behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of this disease. This is especially important because mildly symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19.
“Given these considerations, coupled with a more unfavorable outcome of COVID-19 in older adults — especially those with underlying chronic medical conditions — we recommend against sporting events open to the public. We do believe sport events can take place with only essential personnel and limited family attendance, and this protects the players, employees, and fans.”
The ban also includes NCAA championships in all winter sports.
Spectators who purchased tickets for the Times Union Center event will be fully refunded. All three sessions of the Albany regional are sold out.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament begins Tuesday and Wednesday with “First Four” games in Dayton, Ohio. Mike DeWine, the Ohio governor, already had announced a spectator ban on sporting events in his state, which also has first- and second-round games in Cleveland.
McCoy said Wednesday night there was discussion about holding the earlier games in Albany before the NCAA decided to keep spectators away everywhere.
“At our meeting at 3 o’clock, they discussed that at one point,” McCoy said. “They were talking about moving the earlier games here, so I was hoping to have another announcement, that we were going to be hosting the starting of the games … but they made the conscious decision to not have fans at any of these games.”
Ensor, who is in Atlantic City this week for the MAAC men’s and women’s basketball championships, was asked about the disappointment that the conference champions might face not getting to play in front of spectators.
“Obviously, they’re going to let parents (attend), so at least you get your closest family members in there,” Ensor said. “That’s important. Yeah, it’s a great disappointment for these athletes, but the next step is the event gets canceled. And if this thing gets worse, I mean big-time worse, that might (happen).”
For now, the MAAC Tournament, which began Tuesday, is allowing spectators.
“(New Jersey) state and local officials have told us it’s status quo,” Ensor said. “They have not seen that bloom that requires, they think, any action at this point. We’re taking our cues from then, and if they were to call us now and say we have to eliminate spectators, we would, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
CBS and Turner Sports, which will combine to televise all 67 games of the NCAA tournament, released the following statement: “We support the NCAA’s decision to proceed without fans at the tournament venues. We will continue with our plans to fully produce and cover the entire event.”
Former Siena coach Paul Hewitt was sitting courtside Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, scouting the Pac-12 Tournament (fans were allowed in) for the Los Angeles Clippers. In 1999, he took Siena to its second NCAA Tournament and the Saints, a 13 seed, lost to No. 4 Arkansas in Denver.
“Unfortunately, it’s the right decision,” said Hewitt, who led Siena to an NCAA berth in 1999. “I was hoping and praying (coronavirus) did not reach America, but it was inevitable. I feel awful for the players, the coaches and their families. I went to the Final Four (with Georgia Tech) in 2004, and 16 years later, players on that team still talk about the open practice and all the people that were there to watch.”