During the pre-game event, fans will have the opportunity to sample gourmet mac-n-cheese dishes from numerous Albany-area restaurants; as well as multiple varietals of craft beer from New York breweries. A portion of proceeds from the event will jointly benefit the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and the Times Union Hope Fund.
"Hannaford is excited to be a part of this inaugural event which will serve as the signature attraction for the community in celebration of the return of the MAAC Basketball Tournament to downtown Albany," said Hannaford Supermarkets Community Relations Specialist Brian Fabre. "We encourage basketball fans as well as fans in general of great mac-n-cheese and craft beer to join us for a fun evening to kick off the tournament."
"We are thrilled to bring the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest to downtown Albany. This evening of fantastic food and craft beer will highlight local restaurants while providing a great way for basketball fans to get ready to cheer on their favorite teams," said Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Michele Vennard. "We look forward to hosting tournament attendees for a weekend of championship basketball in downtown Albany."
Tastings for the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest are $10 for 10 sampling tickets, which can be used in any combination for selections of mac-n-cheese or craft beer. A set of 10 sampling tickets may be purchased in advance and reserved online at www.albany.org for $8, a 20 percent discount on the door price. Capacity for the event will be capped at 800 guests.
The Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest will also feature the Dunkin' Donuts prize wheel, music, face painters and jugglers to entertain fans prior to the Friday evening slate of games. Additionally, schools within the MAAC conference will be at the event with giveaways for fans.
"It is always exciting to welcome the MAAC Basketball Tournament back to the Times Union Center and the new 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," said Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber. "The MAAC Basketball Tournament brings the highest quality of collegiate sportsmanship and athleticism to the Times Union Center. We look forward to once again hosting the championship."
The Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest will add another element of excitement to the popular basketball tournament featuring traditional mid-major schools Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Monmouth, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, St. Peter's, and Siena College.
Sponsors of the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest include Hannaford Supermarkets, CHA, Dunkin' Donuts, Pioneer Bank, and Gilbane Building Co.
Additional funding to host and promote the MAAC Basketball Tournament was provided from Empire State Development/ I LOVE NY, which was awarded through the Region Economic Development Council awards.
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. The Table Hopping blog and timesunion.com are the title sponsors of the Mac-n-Cheese Bowl, a similar competition, created at the suggestion of a Table Hopping reader, that in its first six years has raised $200,800 for the food bank. The seventh event, featuring mac-n-cheese from 30 Capital Region restaurants, is scheduled for February 20 at Siena College in Loudonville.
MAAC Basketball Championship Flex ticket pass holders will each receive five complimentary sampling tickets to the Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest. Flex ticket packages feature four tickets redeemable for any open seat, including available seating in the premium lower level, during any session of the MAAC Men's and Women's Basketball Championship, as well as 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.
Flex ticket holders will have first rights to any seats that have not been sold as part of an all-session pass. Flex ticket packages are available for $150 in-person at the Times Union Center box office, by phone at 1-800-745-3000, and online at www.timesunioncenter-albany.com.
Men's and Women's quarterfinal games will be played over two days at the MAAC Basketball Championship, with Women's games at noon and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5; and Men's games at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5.
The semifinal round will take place on Sunday, March 6 with the Women's games at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and the Men's games at 4:30 and 7 p.m. The Women's championship will be held on Monday, March 7 at 2:30 p.m. The Men will tip-off for the championship trophy on Monday at 7 p.m.