The Twin Cities is quickly becoming a college sport championship destination end-point.
After last week’s NCAA announcement, beginning in 2018, the area now will serve as host of nine championship events over the next five years. Over 3,000 bids from schools, conferences, sports groups and cities were submitted last summer for consideration to host predetermined NCAA rounds for 84 of 90 championships.
A total of 613 U.S. sites were awarded last week. Minnesota is one of 43 states to host at least one round. Pennsylvania has 53, with Pittsburgh obtaining the most of any city — 22 preliminary rounds and finals.
The University of Minnesota, Meet Minneapolis and its Sports Minneapolis division, and Visit St. Paul partnered in the bid process. U of M Senior Associate Athletics Director Tom McGinnis told the MSR after the April 18 announcement that the group began work on their proposals last June, “and the [bids] were due in August,” he pointed out. “It was quick, but we spent a lot of time on it.”
Melvin Tennant, the Meet Minneapolis CEO and the only Black top official of the contingent, praised the U of M for their effort, adding that the city’s convention and tourist organization “is blessed to have such a relationship.” He added that $70 million in potential economic impact is estimated to be felt in the cities as a result of hosting these events.
The Vikings stadium, originally built and billed as a multi-purpose venue, will host the 2020 wrestling championship for the first time. It also will be the first time since 1996 that Minneapolis hosted the event — the downtown Minneapolis basketball arena, which is now closed for its final renovation phase, hosted the 1996 NCAA wrestling title matches.
“I was a redshirt my first year at the U,” recalls Gopher Wrestling Coach Brandon Eggum of the 1996 championships. “I remember fans talking about how they loved the entertainment, restaurants, and all those things [in the downtown vicinity]. They were really excited about that.”
After the Super Bowl is played there next February, the Vikings’ home will also host the 2019 Men’s Final Four. Minneapolis joins San Antonio (2018), Atlanta (2020), Indianapolis (2021) and New Orleans (2022), previous cities selected to host Final Fours. The long-gone Metrodome hosted it in 1992 and 2001.
The U of M next year will host the men’s swimming and diving championships and Women’s Frozen Four in March, then the women’s gymnastics regional in April. The St. Paul hockey arena will host the Men’s Frozen Four in April 2018.
Women’s volleyball will crown its national champions in downtown Minneapolis in 2018 — Williams Arena was the site in 1988. “To have the actual athletic competition and also the associated [events] that go along with that, it is going to be a great win for our community,” said Tennant, who also was very instrumental in landing the Super Bowl several years ago.
Back to wrestling: We remember watching the matches from the faraway stands, which made it very difficult to see. “Some of the sightlines were cut off,” admitted Eggum. But holding it in a larger venue, such as the football stadium, should help: “I think the sightlines will be great. Fans will see a great show.
“I’m biased,” Eggum admitted. “The [NCAA] wrestling championship and the state championships are some of the most exciting events in college sport.”
McGinnis predicts that those who plan to attend the nine events will experience “a true Minnesota championship.” He foresees “a lot of good stories” will emerge as a result. If so, we’ll be telling some of them here in the MSR.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com