North Commons Park will soon have new basketball courts, thanks to the NCAA. The 25-plus acre site, located in North Minneapolis, was first purchased in 1907. The basketball goals and other playground equipment were installed there in 1908, and North Commons soon became one of the city’s most heavily used parks.
The park was selected as part of the NCAA Legacy Restorations project, which is usually held in the host city of an NCAA championship event. NCAA.com says it is in conjunction with the host city Local Organizing Committees “to identify locations in the community in need of repairs and updating to provide residents with a safe, functional and attractive place to gather for sports, wellness and recreational activities.”
As a result, the Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) is working with the NCAA in hosting the 2019 Men’s Basketball Final Four. The MLOC includes the host institution University of Minnesota, Sports Minneapolis and Meet Minneapolis, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which runs the Minnesota Vikings’ downtown stadium, the site of the national semifinals games and championship contest in April 2019.
The MLOC announced last week that North Commons has been chosen as the site for the legacy project. President and Chief Executive Officer Kate Mortenson told the MSR at North Commons Recreation Center, “We selected North Commons Park with the NCAA because we feel like here we are in the heart of Minneapolis. We are really excited to bring the [Final Four] to the community.”
JoAnn Scott, NCAA men’s basketball managing director, added, “We held a couple of site visits and it didn’t matter where we went, this was where we need to do the court. It was a slam dunk.”
“A lot of amazing things happen here at North Commons Park,” Minneapolis Park Board Assistant Superintendent Tyrize Cox told the December 8 gathering at the park’s center. Present for the unveiling of the new 2019 Final Four logo were MLOC and NCAA officials, Gov. Mark Dayton, community residents and students from Hall Elementary School. “It is a place on this side of town where families build relationships. I want to thank the NCAA for their generous contribution.”
Cox later told the MSR, “We are so proud that North Commons has been selected to be the [Legacy] investment park. This is really going to be a huge asset in bringing more people to [the park].”
“Being here at North Commons is a good start,” Meet Minneapolis and Sports Minneapolis President and CEO Melvin Tennant declared after the one-hour ceremony. He is among the few Blacks who have played a pivotal role in helping to bring many large-scale championship sporting events in recent years, including the Super Bowl, women’s hockey and women’s volleyball championships in 2018.
“This is the type of event we really wanted” as a kick-off for the 2019 Final Four, U of M Associate Athletics Director Tom McGinnis said. “This is the opportunity to highlight the way we are going to give back to the community. This event is one of the ways we can impact our community. We want to make sure we [are] engaging community.”
“We want people to feel a part” of the four days of Final Four-related events, including the three games, said Mortenson.
In two years Minneapolis will become the eighth U.S. city to host a fourth men’s national basketball championship — the city previously hosted the Final Four in 1951, 1992 and 2001. NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt estimated that the 2019 event in April 6-8, 2019 is “484 days away.”
“We’re on the clock,” Tennant said.
A new basketball court dedication ceremony at North Commons is expected to be held during the week leading up to the Final Four weekend. “Not everybody is going to get a game ticket, but we want to make sure that everybody feels the impact of the Final Four,” said Tennant.
For more information, including details about how to volunteer for the Final Four, go to www.finalfourminneapolis.com.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org