NCAA Tournament

In downtown Sacramento, purple is so yesterday. NCAA tourney brings new shades of fandom

College fans take 'fandom' to next level during NCAA

College basketball fans expected to have large presence in Sacramento as NCAA tournament returns.
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College basketball fans expected to have large presence in Sacramento as NCAA tournament returns.

Downtown Sacramento is about to get a lot more colorful.

Purple is the dominant color on many a night as Sacramento Kings fans stream in and out of Golden 1 Center.

Come Friday, you’ll see waves of green, a spattering of red and multiple shades of blue as 10,000 out-of-town guests descend on downtown Sacramento for first- and second-round games in the NCAA basketball tournament.

While Kings’ fans have a reputation as a passionate fan base, the exuberance of college cheering sections takes it to another level, said Mike Sophia, director of the Sacramento Sports Commission.

“College fans are uber-loyal to their school,” Sophia said. “There is an excitement there that is on par with NBA playoffs.”

An estimated 10,000 visitors for the NCAA Tournament are expected to put downtown hotels at near capacity and spill over into suburban hotels, say Visit Sacramento officials.

The Oregon Ducks are expected to bring one of the largest fan bases to Golden 1 Center and likely will be decked out in green. The University of Oregon is located in Eugene, nearly 500 miles north of Sacramento.

The traveling fans supplement a strong Ducks population who call Sacramento home, said Brooke Taylor, a 2005 graduate and former president of the Sacramento Ducks alumni group.

“There are a lot of ducks in Sacramento,” he said. At 400 members strong, he said the Sacramento chapter is the largest Ducks alumni group in California.

Ducks fans will be practicing their calls at a “pep rally” at 6 p.m. Thursday at New Helvetia Brewing Co., 1730 Broadway.

The famed UCLA Bruins (light blue) also are expected to bring a massive fan base to the tournament action at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento resident Art Urbina didn’t attend UCLA; his fan status was forged through family connections and growing up in Los Angeles.

“I’m a huge fan of the school,” said Urbina. He’s traveled to both football and basketball games.

A sellout crowd of UCLA fans are expected for a Bruin Bash starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday at El Rey restaurant, 723 K St. The team plays at 6:57 p.m. Friday.

Urbina said he’s excited both to see his team and to share his city with out-of-town fans.

“I want to hear what their impression is of Sacramento,” he said.

The other teams playing this weekend are Creighten (blue), Cincinnati (red), Rhode Island (Keaney blue/navy blue) Kent State (blue/gold) and Kansas State (purple).

Sophia said other schools will also draw fans but getting UCLA and Oregon was the ideal scenario for Sacramento.

“It’s sort of a home run to have those teams,” he said.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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