Getting into Friday's , the landmark men's college basketball match-up aboard a Navy aircraft carrier in Coronado, is nearly impossible.
Of the 7,000 available tickets to the game on the USS Carl Vinson, nearly two-thirds were distributed to military personnel and those wounded in combat.
The remainder went to some high-profile people, for instance, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (flying into North Island Naval Air Station for the game) and Magic Johnson, the retired Los Angeles Laker and NBA Hall of Famer.
So don't feel bad that you didn't nab a seat. The overwhelming majority of San Diegans didn't either. There's always ESPN at home or your neighborhood sports bar.
The sports network will broadcast the 4 p.m. game between top-ranked University of North Carolina and Michigan State (Johnson's an alum, so he's their honorary coach).
Petty Officer Issac Paddock, who has spent two years on the ship, said the court was built on the part of the 4.5-acre flight deck where planes usually slam to a halt. Organizers have erected a makeshift arena on a small portion of the deck.
“This is an 180-degree turn from what's normally going on up here,” he said.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams are accustomed to having fans be in awe of them. The situation was reversed Wednesday and Thursday as they saw the carrier flight deck transformed.
Workers have been constructing a court and temporary arena since last week.
As Williams said, “I just walked up and said, ‘Wow.’”
Security also is an issue. Those attending the game are expected to begin clogging the roads leading to the base at noon. Their tickets are personalized with names and partial Social Security numbers, which will be matched with identification. The measure also prevents scalping.
“It's the most expensive ticket in the world and you can't buy it,” said Mike Whalen of the Morale Foundation, which put the event together.
Preparations for the Carrier Classic cost $2 million, according to Whalen, whose organization absorbed the costs, but will break even, he said, because of sponsors.
One of the crucial points for the Navy, said Rear Admiral Dennis Moynihan, was that the game's cost could not be borne by taxpayers, nor could it disrupt the Navy's mission.
At North Island Thursday sailors slipped away from their on-board duties to catch a glimpse of the teams practicing or of ESPN's large set overlooking downtown San Diego.
Brittney Shuman, 22, and her friend Dale Seales, took pictures in front of the court and James Draper happily accepted a commemorative pin from one of the Michigan State Spartans as he left the court.
Travis Trice, a Spartan guard, said he has been impressed by San Diego even from the air.
“I love it,” he said. “As soon as I got off the plane I was like, I wouldn't mind living here.”