2024 Men’s Final Four Refurbishes Basketball Courts at Phoenix’s Historic Eastlake Park

One winner of this year’s NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., will be the aging basketball courts at a historic inner-city Phoenix park that was part of the state’s civil rights movement.

Eastlake Community Center. Photo: City of Phoenix

With the Valley of the Sun preparing to host the annual event on April 6 and April 8, indoor and outdoor basketball courts at historic Eastlake Community Center in central Phoenix will be refurbished as the NCAA Men’s Final Four Legacy Project presented by Degree®.

Every year, about 20,000 youth and adults use the gymnasium, and another 8,000 play on the adjacent outdoor court. The facility also hosts the Annual Arizona MLK Basketball Classic, a tournament for local teams held in connection with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Arizona last hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2017 at the University of Phoenix Stadium, now State Farm Stadium, in Glendale, Ariz. Under the guidance of Coach Roy Williams, the North Carolina Tar Heels bested the Gonzaga Zags on April 3, 71–65, winning the school’s 6th national men’s basketball championship.

2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four Semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 1, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: 2024 Men’s Final Four Host Committee

The project, to be completed before the tournament, is one of the community outreach efforts coordinated by The Phoenix Local Organizing Committee; the NCAA and Degree® are uniting on the courts’s rehabilitation at the park and community center, 1549 E. Jefferson Street in Phoenix. The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority is also providing support.

“Degree® is committed to inspiring the confidence in everyone to move beyond their limits. We know that the opportunity to move is not distributed equally, which is why we make commitments to ensure everyone has the freedom to move and help youth transform their lives through the power of movement. This is why we continue to support Legacy Park in order to bring this commitment to life and help break down the barriers that hold people back from moving,” says a spokesperson for Degree®, which manufactures deodorants and antiperspirants. The company motto is “Move On.”

The construction team will refinish the indoor basketball court, including adjustable hoops and backboards; install a scoreboard with a shot clock; new benches, bleachers, wall pads; and weight room equipment and rubber floor. An outdoor basketball court will also be refurbished and fitted with new backboards and hoops. A mural painted by a local artist is also planned for the site.

Eastlake Park was established in 1889 as a gathering place for neighborhood meetings, picnics, concerts, sports and other recreational activities for African Americans. During the era when Arizona was racially segregated, the facilities hosted rallies and visits from civil rights leaders. In addition, many marches to the Arizona State Capitol started here, and it has hosted a large Juneteenth celebration for many years.

Jay Parry, CEO of the Phoenix Local Organizing Committee. Photo: 2024 Men’s Final Four Host Committee

“Eastlake Park is a community treasure, and this project will ensure a vibrant legacy long after the 2024 Men’s Final Four is over,” says Jay Parry, CEO of the Phoenix Local Organizing Committee. “This is where the next generation of Phoenix basketball stars can begin to dream about one day participating in the Men’s Final Four. We are grateful for the support of the NCAA and Degree® to provide a positive and lasting impact in our community.”

For another of its community activities, the NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2024 Men’s Final Four Host Committee are again hosting the tournament-style Read to the Final Four to inspire third graders to develop their reading abilities; so far the program has posted 121 million minutes nationwide. Schools, teachers, and students participating can win prizes and compete for the title of Championship School.

Read to the Final Four. Photo: 2024 Men’s Final Four Host Committee

“The NCAA believes it is important to invest in the communities that host our championship events,” says Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “The Eastlake Park Legacy Project will demonstrate that we are investing in more than new basketball courts; we are investing in the future of the community and the residents that this park serves.”

For more information, visit www.phoenixfinalfour.com.

This story is from our special edition IN AZ 2024 issue. Read the full issue online here for more inside intel on where to stay, dine and everything in between IN AZ this season and all year round.

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