NCAA Women's Final Four returns to Minneapolis
March Madness is coming back to Minneapolis and it's expected to be the biggest local event since the pandemic began.
Why it matters: We're hosting at the start of a new era for women's basketball. After last year's investigation into NCAA gender disparities, the league is ramping up its media coverage, advertising and spending for women's teams to match what's already offered to men.
- It's also the first year the women's tournament can use March Madness branding, which was historically reserved for the men's games.
Yes, and: We have a local connection! Paige Bueckers, the University of Connecticut point guard and reigning national player of the year, was born and raised in the Twin Cities.
- The Hopkins High School alum is one of the most followed athletes in college sports, with over 980,000 Instagram followers.
- Her Huskies play Stanford at 8:30pm Friday.
What they're saying: "We're investing more money in women's basketball than ever before. This is going to be a new and improved tournament," NCAA president Mark Emmert said at a press conference Wednesday.
Zoom in: Meet Minneapolis expects the festivities to draw between 25,000-30,000 people to the Twin Cities. Tourism boosters say it's another step toward rehabilitating downtown Minneapolis' economy and public image.
- Meet Minneapolis would not say how many of those attendees are coming from out of town, but an economic impact study in Columbus from the 2018 Final Four said 20,000 came from outside of Central Ohio.
The bottom line: This weekend is a big opportunity for the NCAA to prove its new gender equity practices are in effect, and could provide a much-needed boost to our metro.
- And it's something fun to do as this winter-like weather drags on.
What to watch:
- A block of 1st Avenue N outside the Target Center will be closed to vehicles today through Monday.
- The semifinals will be held at 6pm and 8:30pm on Friday, and the National Championship is at 7pm on Sunday. Tickets are still available.
- Downtown Minneapolis is hosting several free events throughout the weekend, including open team practices, a Party on the Plaza and free concert.
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