DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) — The big day is finally here. The NCAA Tournament tips off in Des Moines Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena when Kansas takes on Howard at 1 p.m.

There’s plenty to do for fans who have tickets and for those who do not.

In addition to the games at Wells Fargo Arena, the Iowa Events Center is hosting a Fan Fest at Hy-Vee Hall. It will be open between Thursday’s sessions with doors likely opening sometime around 4:30 p.m. It will only be open Thursday. There will be screens broadcasting other NCAA Tournament games, food trucks, a beer stand, inflatables and basketball hoops for people to shoot at.

Cowles Commons is hosting Hoops and Hops again. There will be heated tents with games on. There will also be food trucks and two basketball courts for fans. The Iowa Craft Beer Association will also have a tent. It begins Thursday and runs each day through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Admission is free to both the Fan Fest and Hoops and Hops.

For fans who do have tickets, Iowa Events Center General Manager Chris Connolly said it’s important they arrive early. Doors open at Wells Fargo Arena at 11:30 a.m. The arena has a clear bag policy. That means bags bigger than wallet-sized must be clear. People can check them at the arena. If parking fills up near the arena, there is more available at Principal Park. A shuttle service will be provided.

Gametimes Thursday are:

  • 1:00 p.m. — (16) Howard vs. (1) Kansas
  • 3:30 p.m. — (9) Illinois vs. (8) Arkansas
  • 6:25 p.m. — (15) Colgate vs. (2) Texas
  • 8:55 p.m. — (10) Penn State vs. (7) Texas A&M

Hosting the tournament means a lot to Des Moines. The event’s returning to the city for the third time since 2016.

Mayor Frank Cownie is proud to have it back but the most important thing is making sure it’s a great experience for both returning fans and newcomers.

“A number of those teams coming in, they’ll bring their fans with them,” he said. “A lot of them have been here before so they know what an exciting, inviting place Des Moines is. And we’re here to greet them and serve them and hopefully, they’ll have a great weekend.”

In total, there will be six games in Des Moines, four on Thursday and two on Saturday.