TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The NCAA Women’s Final Four championship will be in Tampa for the third time and the folks at Amalie Arena say they're ready.
“You're working all year long for a national championship and, in some cases, students work their entire life to get to this opportunity to come here,” said Meredith Cleaver, the NCAA director of championships and alliances.
Tampa hosted the event in 2008 and 2015, and Cleaver shared what the organization picked up on regarding what locals know and love.
“The footprint is phenomenal because with Amalie Arena, the Convention Center, the beautiful Riverwalk that you all have now with the restaurants and the shops,” said Cleaver. “The hotels here are fantastic and phenomenal. The beach isn't too far away.”
Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission said those places are all special for one big reason:
“We think the people make the place, and it's the warmth and hospitality of the community that's been a real differentiator, helping us get our Women's Final Four for the third time,” said Higgins.
The games are big for the local economy.
“The 2015 Women's Final Four generated over 21,000 hotel visitor room nights. And not only did it generate that huge number of room nights, those room nights sold over $24 per room higher than the previous year of those same dates,” said Higgins.
Now that the city has added Armature Works, Sparkman Wharf, and the Riverwalk, organizers said it all adds appeal for athletes, parents, and fans.
“It's a little bit of what they want to see and do,” said Cleaver.
Organizers said having the event in Tampa also gives more exposure for the city.
“The games are on national television. There's a gigantic social media following,” said Higgins. “Tampa will be on the top of a lot of people's minds whether they're here or just watching back home.”
The three games are on Friday and Sunday, and Cleaver said there's more to the experience than just the games. There are a number of free events in downtown Tampa, including a fan festival and a concert featuring Gavin DeGraw.
“We've got youth clinics for kids to come out and learn from collegiate coaches, skills and how to play,” said Cleaver. “We've got the bounce on Sunday which will close down the Riverwalk to be able to have kids dribble basketballs.”
Organizers already have the host cities chosen for 2024, but it’s possible Tampa could be a contender as a four-time host in the future.