Four for Final Four: Inside the NCAA’s Choices
3 Oct, 2018By: Mary Helen Sprecher
NCAA football is king right now, but four communiities are still cleaning up confetti after learning of their selection last week as host cities for the Women’s Final Four from 2021 through 2024.
The cities, San Antonio, Minneapolis, Dallas and Cleveland, have all had previous NCAA hosting experience, and each brings something different to the March Madness mix. Here are some of the things making each city unique in each cycle of the championships:
2021: San Antonio, Texas
Dates: April 2 and 4
Host Facility: Alamodome
Co-hosts: University of the Incarnate Word, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio Sports.
Previous NCAA Women’s Final Four hosting experience: 2002 and 2010.
What they're saying: Organizers believe those seeing San Antonio for the first time will be bowled over -- and that even visitors who have been to San Antonio previously will come away impressed. "There is so much that is new in the city since 2010," says Russ Bookbinder, president and CEO of San Antonio Sports Commission. "The Alamodome has had a $60 million renovation, there has been an extention of the Riverwalk and we have a new convention center -- it's just beautiful." Still, he adds, "There's nothing that beats the culture and the fiesta flavor of our city. We're a great, great sports destination and one thing that really makes us unique is our walkability. Another is the team spirit that permeates this city. In San Antonio, we're all on the same page. Whenever someone comes here, we want them to be wowed."
Trivia Points: The 2002 national championship waes won by UConn, which defeated Oklahoma in the title game. The Women’s Final Four all-time attendance record was set in 2002, with 29,619 in attendance for the national semifinals. The 2010 Women’s Final Four in San Antonio also was won by UConn, behind most outstanding player Maya Moore when the Huskies, with a 39-0 record, defeated Stanford for the national title.
2022: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Dates: April 1 and 3
Host Venue: Target Center
Co-hosts: The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Sports Minneapolis
Previous NCAA Women’s Final Four hosting experience: 1995
What they’re saying: “It took great teamwork to secure this very important women’s championship event for our city and region, and we’re incredibly proud of the trust the NCAA has placed in us to be its home for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four,” stated Melvin Tennant, Executive Director of Sports Minneapolis and President and CEO of Meet Minneapolis. “This community has shown incredible support for female athletes at every level in our state. We intend to showcase that enthusiasm, along with our vibrant city and world-class venues, to fans and student athletes from around the country.”
Trivia points: The 1995 Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis was a sign of things to come in women’s basketball, as the UConn Huskies, coached by a young upstart named Geno Auriemma, scored the first of their record 11 team national championships. The championship capped a perfect 35-0 season for the Huskies.
2023: Dallas, Texas
Dates: March 31 and April 2
Host venue: American Airlines Center
Co-hosts: The Big 12 Conference, Dallas Sports Commission
Previous NCAA Women’s Final Four hosting experience: 2017
What they’re saying: “Thank you to the NCAA and the Women’s Basketball Committee for the opportunity to host the 2023 Women’s Final Four,” said Monica Paul, Executive Director of the Dallas Sports Commission. “In 2017, the energy in the American Airlines Center and in the city of Dallas was unmatched and we were blown away by the experience and the community participation. We want Dallas to be synonymous with women’s basketball and we look forward to making 2023 even bigger and better.”
Trivia points: In conjunction with the Women’s Final Four, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association will hold its annual meeting and trade show in Dallas in 2023. In 2017, Dallas was the setting when perennial favorite UConn was upset in the national semifinal by Mississippi State, which ended the Huskies’ record 111-game winning streak.
2024: Cleveland, Ohio
Dates: April 5 and 7
Host venue: Quicken Loans Arena
Co-hosts: Mid-American Conference, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission
Previous NCAA Women’s Final Four hosting experience: 2007
What they’re saying: The NCAA's awarding Cleveland the Women's Final Four folds into a future-minded initiative the city has undertaken, according to David Gilbert, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. "We did a whole year-long series of programs based on the empowerment of women and girls," he notes. "This is really about using that event as a platform to have an even larger impact on the community." And, he adds, visitors to the city will experience "an astoundingly different downtown," with new entertainment districts and new hotels.
Trivia points: Cleveland was the site of the second to last national championship won by the Tennessee Lady Vols and legendary head coach Pat Summitt in 2007. ("It was," says Gilbert, "one of the neatest events the community has ever hosted. Everyone got behind it." This will be the fourth Women’s Final Four to be held in the state of Ohio, with Cincinnati hosting in 1997 and Columbus in 2018.
Common denominator: Economic impact
There’s no denying it. Women’s Final Four is a juicy plum for any city to pull down. In 2018, news reports indicated that Columbus saw a nearly $22 million influx in direct spending for the local economy. According to the economic impact study, the event drew nearly 20,000 visitors to the city and accounted for 32,000 hotel room nights. Hosting the event also created additional hiring at restaurants and hotels, passenger transportation and retail. The organizing committee said the Final Four drew 39,123 people to the three games at Nationwide Arena, surpassing fan turnout for the Women’s Final Four in Dallas the previous year.
No doubt event organizers in all four cities will be looking to top those figures.