By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Final Four may be four months away, but preparations are already in high gear.

Over the past two days, crews have been turning U.S. Bank Stadium into a basketball arena for the U.S. Bank Stadium Basketball Classic this weekend.

The tournament will have a total of four games on Friday and Saturday featuring regional college teams including the University of St. Thomas and the U of M.

Crews have been working around the clock since the Viking game ended Sunday to cover half the football field and install the basketball court. U.S. Bank Stadium organized this tournament because of a contractual requirement by the NCAA.

“It was part of the bid process that was submitted a few years ago,” Patrick Talty, general manager of U.S. Bank Stadium said. “It was that you had to do a test event or a basketball event of some sort in the building before the Final Four.”

Because U.S. Bank Stadium doesn’t own a court, one was brought in from Sioux Falls. New graphics will be added to the floor before the weekend.

While this court sits over an end zone, the court for the Final Four will be placed right in the middle of the stadium. Fifteen-thousand fans are expected for each of this weekend’s games, while 70,000 are expected for the Final Four contests.

This tournament amounts to rehearsal for U.S. Bank’s crew and their equipment.

“Testing the scoring system — you know the horn, the sound system, the lights, those type of things — so we make sure we are ready for basketball,” Talty said.

U.S. Bank is not leaving anything to chance. Tomorrow, they’ll be bring in a high school team from Cottage Grove to practice on the court.

Tickets for this weekend tournament are available through the U.S. Bank website and Ticketmaster.

Esme Murphy