Goldy Gopher, awkwardly signing on a dotted line with an oversized furry paw, led the way Friday for the Final Four 2019 volunteer sign-up at the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena.
At a kickoff event in the clubroom overlooking the basketball court, Final Four CEO Kate Mortenson joined Goldy, Gophers cheerleaders waving pompoms and about a dozen volunteers to say, “It’s time to mark your calendars. It’s time to set your alarm on your phone.” Officials say that 2,000 volunteers are needed for the big NCAA event that runs April 6-8, the culmination of the men’s basketball March Madness tournament. Those interested can apply beginning at noon Monday by going to finalfourminneapolis.com. Some 90,000 visitors are expected in the Twin Cities for the three games, to be held at U.S. Bank Stadium. Volunteers will unfurl the welcome mat for the visitors, providing directions and information throughout the metro area much as they did for Super Bowl LII in February.
About a dozen “point guard” or lead volunteers sprinted into Friday’s event, including enthusiastic Super Bowl veterans like Alisha Stansil of Minneapolis.
“It was tons of fun,” said Stansil, who was a skyway captain in the days leading up to the big game at U.S. Bank Stadium. “It helped me get out of my shell. ... I met tons and tons of people.” She said she enjoys “providing positive energy and good vibes.”
Two other Super Bowl veterans said the volunteer “Crew 52” for the February event came to feel like family. Tashonda Williamson and Clifford Morse said they were back for more.
“It’s just so much fun interacting with people,” Morse said. “Then you have the Final Four basketball tournament, which is one of the biggest events in the country.”
Williamson, who had her blue-and-purple-striped Super Bowl scarf draped over her shoulders, said: “We really develop a family. When we get the call, the yes is already there.”
The Final Four officially runs for three days, including the two days when games are played, but some events start a day earlier. Still, it’s significantly shorter than the weeklong Super Bowl celebration, which required 10,000 volunteers to host.
Another Super Bowl veteran, volunteer coordinator Sheila Her, said volunteers will receive a uniform just as they did for the Super Bowl. She wasn’t ready to reveal it yet, but presumably it won’t include the heavy duty winter gear needed for the February event.
Unlike the football game, where volunteers had to sign up for specific tasks for every shift, Her said that Final Four volunteers will have the option of playing different roles in the three or four shifts they work.
One thing she learned from the Super Bowl that she doesn’t have to plan for, she said: attrition. “We know our Minnesotans show up,” Her said.