When thousands of college basketball fans arrive in Newark this week for the “Sweet Sixteen” round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, their path to the games and around the state’s largest city will be eased by the presence of nearly 1,000 volunteers recruited by the New Jersey Department of State and the Office of Mayor Cory Booker.
“The many volunteers stepping forward demonstrate the community’s commitment to not only the games, but to the city of Newark as well,’’ said Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who doubles as Secretary of State. “It is very gratifying to see.’’
The volunteers will have one main goal: help visitors, many of whom likely will be visiting Newark for the first time. Rowena Madden, Director of the State’s Office of Volunteerism, said volunteers will be stationed at Newark Liberty Airport, Penn Station and downtown hotels. Wearing what will be recognizable black and blue shirts, the corps of volunteers will help visitors find their way around the city, whether they’re looking for a ride to the Prudential Center, the site of the games, or a good place for a late night snack or a gourmet dinner. A particular group of volunteers will be deployed along city streets from the downtown business district to the Ironbound section to help visitors find restaurants and cultural sites.
The volunteers were recruited and trained with help from the state’s Business Action Center, which is under the purview of Lt. Governor Guadagno.
Madden said the volunteers include not only Newark residents, but those who work in Newark, as well as students. The NCAA games will be played Friday and Sunday, but volunteers will start on Thursday in conjunction with GoNewarkHoopFest, a series of events aimed at promoting the weekend. Included will be a college fair with twenty universities represented and free open practices for all four teams playing this weekend: North Carolina, Marquette, Kentucky and Ohio State. There also will be a FanFest in downtown Newark featuring musical performances and local food vendors.
The best way to follow all the action and find specific information is to visit gonewark.com/HoopFest.