Congratulations to the women’s basketball teams from Stanford University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Louisville. These NCAA regional champions, their fans and supporters will start arriving in our city this week for the Women’s Final Four and to determine this year’s NCAA Division I women’s basketball champion.
The NCAA typically refers to a city hosting one of its championships as the destination for the long journey of that ultimate winner. The Women’s Final Four also accelerates our battered industry’s journey to recovery.
Minneapolis was on the cusp of hosting the NCAA Men’s Wrestling Championship when it was abruptly cancelled due to the onset of the pandemic, in March of 2020. This week’s event helps us renew our longtime relationship with the NCAA by hosting the Women’s Final Four.
This will be the first in-person, arena-filled Women’s Final Four since 2019 in Tampa. Stories abound to demonstrate that there is a real hunger for women’s basketball. There are stories of women with the personal experience competing in athletics before and after the adoption of Title IX. Title IX came into effect in 1972, making Minneapolis the home of that golden anniversary celebration. It was enacted by Congress and prohibits discrimination in educational opportunities based on gender.
There are also stories such as a recent business meeting, where an attendee mentioned that his wife and son had tickets to the weekend games and how excited they both are to attend. And a high school classmate of mine, whom I had not spoken to in several years, reached out. She let me know that she, her sister and their 88-year-old mother would be coming to Minneapolis for their 10th Women’s Final Four. We know that many more memories will be made this week.
Our Meet Minneapolis team began the pursuit of the 2022 Final Four several years ago. Those efforts went into high gear in 2018 when the formal bidding process commenced. It included an in-person destination site visit by NCAA decision-makers.
There were several cities vying for the tournament, and we had to distinguish ourselves from our competition. The clincher for our selection, in my view, was hosting the site visit with NCAA officials during the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game in Minneapolis. The NCAA officials saw our city fully activated during a major event. Our friends and colleagues at the four-time WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx were front and center throughout the entire process of securing the Women’s Final Four. Coach Reeve and other team leaders were integral in telling our story of excellence in women’s sports to the NCAA.
We need our entire hospitality industry and our local citizen-ambassadors to be fully engaged to ensure that our Final Four guests’ experiences are memorable. This will be great primer for us to reacquaint ourselves with what it takes to host major events.
We know there are many more such events in store for us along our journey to recovery.