By Scott Prater
Mike DeCastro never expected the scratch tickets to amount to anything, but the promotion was kind of fun to play and it made him keep track of a lot of teams in the NCAA basketball tournament.
The 50th Civil Engineer Squadron construction inspector first heard of the Air Force Hoops promotion during early March, when the Schriever Outdoor Recreation and Information Tickets and Travel Office began distributing scratch tickets for the promotion. Four winners from Air Force bases worldwide, were selected to attend the NCAA Final Four tournament April 5-7 in Arlington, Texas along with a person of their choosing.
Each scratch ticket revealed either an instant prize or a code that players could enter at MyAirForceLife.com to receive a random seed in the tournament. The more codes a participant entered, the more seeds they received and the more opportunities they had to win.
“I went to the outdoor rec office every day for two weeks straight, not counting the weekend, so I had 10 tickets or so,” DeCastro said. “Still, I was surprised when I got an email message saying I was an alternate winner March 31.”
Less than 24 hours later, DeCastro learned he had won the trip to Texas, tickets to the semifinals and the championship game, air fare and hotel accommodations.
“I called my cousin in Seattle and told him to pack his bags,” DeCastro said. “It was surreal. Even though I’m a huge basketball fan, this is something I never would have paid to do. We priced tickets for the final four games and they were in the neighborhood of $500 a piece for nose-bleed seats. That’s not counting air fare and hotel rooms.”
The only downside for DeCastro was he had to finish a project a day early so he could take leave to go on the trip.
“I asked my supervisor for the time off and he, of course, approved it considering my circumstances,” DeCastro said. “I had to rush to get stuff done early, but it was worth it.”
Korey Kuykendall, Schriever ODR/ITT manager, said the ODR office distributed 3,000 tickets during the promotion.
“The promotion was designed to run through April 7, but we ran out of tickets by March 23,” Kuykendall said. “Not only was there the NCAA Final Four-trip drawing, but also a grand prize drawing. It was definitely ‘fun’ for the participants; it gave them a rooting interest in different teams. When it came down to it, it really was luck of the draw for the final four trip, but of course the more cards players collected, the more entries they received.”
Darcie Ibidapo, 50th Force Support Squadron advertising and commercial sponsorship manager, said Schriever members participated in the promotion at one of the highest rates in the Air Force.
“Only Spangdahlem Air Base scratched off more tickets, but they received roughly three times the amount that we did here,” she said.