CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina's largest city says an expansion of its light rail service will begin the same day the city hosts the opening rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament.

The Charlotte Area Transit System announced Monday night that the $1 billion expansion of its light-rail will open Friday, March 16. Charlotte is hosting first- and second-round games of the men's basketball tournament starting March 16.

It will give basketball fans staying in hotels near the university easy access to the arena in downtown Charlotte.

The expansion of the Blue Line will add more than nine miles and 11 stations to the system. The new line runs from uptown Charlotte to UNC Charlotte. 

"Our students, faculty and staff will be connected to Charlotte like they've never been before," said Betty Doster, a university spokesperson. 

She said it will help students get to different parts of the city for jobs, interviews and internships.

Starting in the fall, UNC Charlotte students will pay a $25 transportation fee which will allow them to ride the light rail anytime. Students say this will allow students over 21 to go out in the city without having to worry about a ride back. 

The city had originally hoped to open the extension last August but there were delays in the project.