Cincinnati Won't Host NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in 2022 After All

Cincinnati won't be hosting its first NCAA men's basketball tournament games in 30 years due to renovations needed on the Heritage Bank Center, the league announced yesterday.

Dec 12, 2019 at 10:17 am
The Heritage Bank Center under its former name, U.S. Bank Arena - PHOTO: DEREK JENSEN (CC-BY-2.0)
The Heritage Bank Center under its former name, U.S. Bank Arena

If you were fired up about the prospect of Cincinnati hosting March Madness in 2022, well, get ready for some March sadness.

It's not going to happen. 

Citing renovations it would like to see to the 44-year-old, 18,000-seat Heritage Bank Center (called U.S. Bank Arena when the NCAA tapped Cincinnati for the tournament in 2017), the NCAA says it is moving games scheduled for Cincinnati on March 1 and March 19, 2022 to Indianapolis. 

"NCAA March Madness games scheduled for Cincinnati in 2022 are being moved to Indianapolis to allow more time for the newly renamed Heritage Bank Center to complete current and future planned renovations," a statement from the league reads. "These first- and second-round Division I men’s basketball championship games will now be played at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, and Cincinnati will have the opportunity to bid on hosting future March Madness rounds."

Cincinnati once hosted the tournament semi-regularly. It hosted the first and second rounds of the men's tournament in 1998 and 1992 and regional tournament rounds in 1979 and 1987. 

But the 2022 date would have been the first time Cincinnati hosted the tournament in three decades. That was contingent on the Heritage Bank Center getting new locker rooms and expanded space for media. But arena owners Nederlander Entertainment and AEG wanted more extensive, $200 million renovations, and then, later, a completely new arena. However, the owners say those plans need public subsidy, something local elected officials have not had much enthusiasm for. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the venue owners said renovations were scheduled to start next year and that owners are "extremely disappointed" by the development, but will "continue to work with the local NCAA institutions, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and community leaders in doing what is necessary to secure other future NCAA Events as part of the 2023-2026 bid process."