Upwards of 50,000 people from the Delaware Valley and beyond poured into Center City for Villanova’s NCAA National Championship parade Friday, painting downtown blue and white.
The parade began around 1 p.m. at 20th and Market streets and ended at Dilworth Park at City Hall with a massive rally, headlined by Mayor Jim Kenney, Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright and the Villanova men’s basketball team.
Thousands of fans donned blue and white to celebrate the Wildcats’ 77-74 buzzer-beating win over the North Carolina Tar Heels Monday night. The parade lasted about two hours.
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“That was a dream come true — something you could never imagine,” Wright said of Monday night’s win.
“But when we came down Market Street right here and we saw all these people, that shocked us more than [Kris Jenkins'] shot. This is the biggest thing we have ever seen. We want to thank you for making our dream come true today, this is amazing. Thank you, Philadelphia.”
“Philly, what’s good?” said Jenkins as he took to the mic, surrounded by thousands of fans.
“We put a lot of hard work in this year and this is something nobody will ever be able to take away from us.”
Friday’s parade was complimented by Villanova University’s coaching staff, cheerleaders, band, university president the Rev. Peter Donohue, Athletic Director Mark Jackson and many more.
“Thank you Philadelphia for welcoming us in from the suburbs,” said Wright.
“We are honored to be a part of Philadelphia today and forever. Philadelphia, we are a city of champions again! I promise you, this is just a warm-up. Today, everybody in Philadelphia is a part of the Nova Nation. This is the best college basketball city in the world.”
In terms of transportation issues, the only reported problem involved SEPTA trains from the Main Line, Villanova's home, where several fans and regular commuterswere left stranded after trains became overcrowded and several stations were skipped.
One man, who only identified himself as Sal, had been waiting at the Wynnewood Station since 10:15 a.m., and could only watch as train after train went by. After SEPTA added three additional trains, he was able to get to 30thStreet Station at 12:45 p.m., but was too late to catch his Amtrak connection. He said he would now have to hop on a different train for $45 more.
"I don't want to blame the fans, but SEPTA should have seen this coming," Salsaid.
Don Volk, of the Villanova class of '71, was on one of the Paoli-Thorndaletrains that went past Ardmore, Wynnewood, Narberthand other stations on the way to Center City. The car was packed uncomfortably with Villanova fans and regular commuters.
"It shouldn't have been a surprise" to SEPTA that the trains would be overcrowded, said Volk of Berwyn. But the travel conditions weren’t dimming his enthusiasmfor cheering the team.
"I have a shirt from the 1985 [championship] that I haven't worn since the '85," he said. "I put it on for the final game."
Did it fit?
"It fit perfectly."
SEPTA encouraged parade-goers not needing to return home immediately following the festivities to “enjoy Center City’s dining establishments before heading home.”
SEPTA added extra capacity to the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) and asked customers heading to the Villanova campus area to take the Market-Frankford Line to 69th Street Transportation Center, then transfer to the NHSL. The NHSL has stops at Radnor, Villanova and Stadium stations.
“I am Big 5 guy by birth, and when a Big 5 member does something great, we all celebrate, so congratulations on this wonderful, wonderful achievement,” said Kenney.
“For the first time, I won my bracket.”