Albany Capital Center opens to public as host of championship fan activities

ALBANY, N.Y. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), in partnership with the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Albany Convention Center Authority and SMG, will undertake a series of community and fan initiatives in celebration of the 2017 MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, March 2-6 at Times Union Center in Albany, NY.

The exciting lineup of events will include a variety of activities for basketball fans to supplement the MAAC Basketball Championships featuring men’s and women’s teams from Canisius College, Fairfield University, Iona College, Manhattan College, Marist College, Monmouth University, Niagara University, Quinnipiac University, Rider University, St. Peter’s University, and Siena College.

The Albany Capital Center, the new state-of the-art convention center, will welcome the public with championship caliber activities to celebrate the tournament which will crown a men’s and women’s conference champion at the Times Union Center on Monday, March 6. The winners will each gain an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament.

“The MAAC is excited to be back in downtown Albany, and we are thrilled that our tournament will be part of the official opening of the Albany Capital Center,” said MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor. “The Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest is the perfect opportunity for attendees to sample the best food and drink from local restaurants and breweries amongst fellow basketball fans.”

“This year’s tournament has the potential to be one of the most exciting in recent memory,” said Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber. “The Times Union Center is proud to host the MAAC Basketball Championships for a record 18th time, and we look forward to demonstrating once again why no one does it better than Albany in staging this historic and multifaceted event.”

Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest to kick off fan excitement, serve as inaugural event at Albany Capital Center on Friday, March 3

The centerpiece off-court event of the weekend is the second annual Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest, which will invite fans to celebrate the return of the MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships to downtown Albany. The popular fan festival will serve as the inaugural event at the much-anticipated Albany Capital Center, the new state-of-the-art convention center, on Friday, March 3 from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

During the pre-game event, fans will have the opportunity to sample gourmet mac-n-cheese dishes from numerous Albany-area restaurants, including: Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen; Ama Cocina; Angelo’s 677 Prime; Capitol Melts Grilled Cheese Café; Cider Belly Doughnuts; The City Beer Hall; Dave & Buster’s; Druthers Brewing Company; The Hollow Bar & Kitchen; Parish Public House; Public House 42; and Wellington’s. Multiple varietals of craft beer from New York breweries will also be available, including: Brewery Ommegang; Brown’s Brewing Company; Ithaca Beer Company; and Saranac Brewery.

“We were overwhelmed by the community’s response to last year’s first-ever Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest, and we are delighted to bring the event back to downtown Albany in celebration of the MAAC Basketball Championships,” said Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Michele Vennard. “We are honored to serve as the first event for the heralded new Albany Capital Center as it officially opens its doors to the public. The facility is sure to be a tremendous addition to downtown Albany.”

“Hannaford is excited to once again be a part of this outstanding event, which will not only serve as the signature fan attraction of the MAAC Basketball Championships, but also the inauguration of such an anticipated facility in downtown Albany,” said Hannaford Supermarkets Community Relations Specialist Brian Fabre. “We encourage both basketball and mac-n-cheese fans to join us for a fun evening to kick off the tournament and celebrate the opening of the Albany Capital Center.”

Tickets for the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest are available online at www.albany.org for $8. Tickets entitle guests to 10 tastings of any combination of mac-n-cheese or craft beer. Tickets will be available at the door on Friday, March 3 for $10. (For those not interested in participating in the mac-n-cheese or craft beer tastings, admission is free).

This year’s festivities will feature the Air Elite Dunkers, the official dunk team for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors. The high-flying entertainers will showcase their aerobatic skills in a pair of 20-minute performances during the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest at the Albany Capital Center. The Air Elite Dunkers are presented by Pioneer Bank. Other entertainment will include performances by MAAC school pep bands; basketball-themed inflatables; face painting; a balloon artist; and music.

Times Union Senior Writer and Table Hopping Columnist Steve Barnes will emcee the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest, which will include a People’s Choice Award for the restaurant which serves the crowd’s favorite mac-n-cheese. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Times Union Hope Fund which serves children in need throughout the Capital Region.

Sponsors of the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest include Hannaford Supermarkets, Berkshire Bank, Upstate Ford, NYSCOPBA, Pioneer Bank and Dunkin’ Donuts. Additional funding to host and promote the MAAC Basketball Tournament was provided from Empire State Development/ I LOVE NY, which was awarded through the Regional Economic Development Council awards.

Championship weekend to be highlighted with a number of fan engagement activities

In addition to the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest, the ACCVB will host a number of fan activities in conjunction with the 2017 MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships.

Pep bands and spirit squads from MAAC colleges and universities will spread excitement about the return of the tournament to downtown Albany with a Band Jam in Albany’s West Capitol Park, outside the State Capitol, near South Swan and State Streets on Friday, March 3 at noon. The public is invited to enjoy the high-energy performances. (In the event of inclement weather, the MAAC Band Jam will be relocated to the Albany Capital Center.)

Fans will have the opportunity to learn more about the academic and athletic opportunities available at conference schools during the MAAC College Fair at the Albany Capital Center on Friday, March 3 from 4 to 7 p.m.

The fun will continue on the morning of Saturday, March 4 when local children will be invited to dribble basketballs from the steps of Albany City Hall to the entrance of the Albany Capital Center during the Bounce to the Albany Capital Center. The first 200 participants will receive a free MAAC basketball, and the first 500 participants will receive a voucher redeemable for a free ticket to the women’s quarterfinals game on Saturday at noon. Registration begins at 10 a.m. at Albany City Hall, 24 Eagle Street, and concludes at 10:30 a.m. The Bounce to the Capital Center commences at 10:45 a.m.

Following the Bounce to the Capital Center, participants are welcome to attend an Open House at the Albany Capital Center at 11 a.m. The Open House will feature a number of free activities, including basketball free throws, a bounce house, and a photo booth.

Hannaford Supermarkets and the MAAC will team up to support hunger relief efforts with a special Hannaford Helps Food Drive at the Times Union Center. The date of the food drive will be announced at the conclusion of the regular season. Fans attending the designated game are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item, which will be donated to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The collection will take place on the Times Union Center concourse outside sections 104 and 105. Fans who donate at least three non-perishable items will receive a voucher for two free tickets to the women’s championship game on Monday, March 6 at 5 p.m. at the Times Union Center.

Parking options for 2017 MAAC Basketball Championships and fan activities

Parking for all MAAC Championships activities can be found at the following locations:

  • Renaissance Albany, located directly across the street from the Albany Capital Center
  • Times Union Center
  • Hilton Albany
  • 11-19 South Pearl Street
  • Beaver Street Garage

On-street parking is also available and is free after 5 p.m. on weekdays, as well as weekends. All parking is based on availability, first-come, first-served.

Ticket options for 2017 MAAC Basketball Championships

All-session passes are on sale for the MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships. All-session passes, which grant access to all 20 games of the men’s and women’s tournament, are $97, $122, $167 and $227.

Flex ticket packages are also available for the MAAC Basketball Championships. Flex ticket packages include four tickets redeemable for any open seat during any session of the MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, including both championship games. The tickets may be utilized for four seats to one session, one seat for four sessions, or any ensuing combination to enable fans to tailor the tournament experience to meet their needs.

Two sets of flex ticket packages, each comprised of four tickets, are available for this year’s tournament. The first package provides access to any open seat during any session and is $150. The second package provides access to any open seat in the lower level corners and end zones and is $100.

Individual session passes are also currently available. Individual session passes, flex ticket packages and all-session passes may be purchased at the arena box office, charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000 and online at www.timesunioncenter-albany.com.

For a complete tournament schedule, visit www.maacsports.com.

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