2019 Final Four planners promise more local community engagement

(Final Four logo courtesy of the Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee)

It’s over a year away, but the clock now is ticking on the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis. “An incredible year and a half” remains before the Division I men’s college basketball national semifinals and finals are held at the Minnesota Vikings’ downtown stadium April 6-8, 2019, said Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball.

Last week’s Final Four logo unveiling event was a “historic launch,” declared Gavitt December 8 at North Commons Park in North Minneapolis. “Minneapolis once again will be the center of the basketball universe, only the eighth [U.S.] city to host four national championship games,” noted the NCAA official.

Minneapolis previously hosted the event in 1951 (Williams Arena), 1992 and 2001 (Metrodome), and opening round games in 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2000. The city hosted the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in 1989 and preliminary rounds in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

(l-r) Tom McGinnis, MN Sports Facilities Authority Ex. Director Rick Evans, Kate Mortenson, Melvin Tennant, NCAA Managing Director JoAnn Scott, Dan Gavitt (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

“This will be the 13th time the state of Minnesota has hosted March Madness,” Gavitt pointed out.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, other NCAA officials, local dignitaries and community folk were present. “This is an exciting event for all of Minnesota,” Gov. Dayton stressed.  The weekend event and the ancillary planned events leading up to the three games are expected to “bring worldwide attention” to the area, he pointed out.

North Commons Park also will be the site of the NCAA’s Legacy Restoration project, where new basketball courts will be installed and dedicated during Final Four week in April 2019 — for more details, see the feature story on this project on this week’s front page.

Kate Mortenson, the Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) president and chief executive officer, stressed that unveiling the Final Four logo at North Commons is “symbolic” of how her committee plans to include the broader community outside downtown. “We selected North Commons Park with the NCAA because we feel like here we are in the heart of Minneapolis.”

Many local Blacks and other people of color have complained that previous large-scale sporting events have somehow eluded community involvement outside of the downtown area. Mortenson told the MSR, “We charge ourselves with ensuring that the [various activities] will benefit the community.”

“I do believe there is a strong commitment” for community inclusion, added Sports Minneapolis and Meet Minneapolis President-CEO Melvin Tennant. He was among the contingent mainly responsible for successfully bringing the Final Four, the Super Bowl and other big sporting events to the area. “Being here at North Commons is a good start,” said Tennant.

Minneapolis Park Board Assistant Superintendent Tyrize Cox pointed out, “I do feel like the investment in this park brings the Final Four closer to the community.”

“Anytime you can have an event like this is a win-win for everybody involved,” said University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle. The school is the host institution.

Minnesota Senior Associate AD Tom McGinnis reiterated that the MLOC “will have a couple of new initiatives” designed for community involvement as the 2019 Final Four planning now in progress continues.

“We’re on the clock,” said Tennant.

Globe-tracking the Lynx

Natasha Howard (Zhejiang), Sylvia Fowles (Beijing) and Temi Fagbenie (CCC Polkowice) are among several Lynx players in overseas action this week.

Howard last week averaged 29 points and 14 boards as her club had a 1-1 week. Fagbenie’s club also had a .500 week as she knocked in 11 points in a win and eight points in a loss.

Alexis Jones (Al-Qazeres) continues her torrid play with a 29-point effort in an overtime win last week.



Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.