Final words on Final Four attendance

Charles Hallman/MSR News Cydni Bickerstaff with Kate Mortenson talking with reporter in background

The 2019 Minneapolis Final Four is almost a month in the record books, but local organizers, using baseball lingo, say they hit it out of the park.

Standing across the street from the Vikings stadium, 2019 Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) President/CEO Kate Mortensen told reporters April 19, including the MSR, “The NCAA took us up on that from the beginning on [staging] a “walkable Final Four.”

“All the venues were within a one-mile radius. It checked all the boxes ‘yes’ for us,” Event Operations Vice President Cydni Bickerstaff said of the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Armory, Nicollet Mall and other downtown locations used for the Final Four and its ancillary events. 

“Thousands and thousands of visitors” were in town, and the events were well attended —“more than expected,” Mortensen continued. 

The MLOC last week released the following attendance numbers to support Mortensen’s claims:

  • Attendance: 72,711 on Final Four Saturday, and 72,062 on Championship Monday
  • Team practices on Final Four Friday: 36,599 (highest since 25,000 in Indianapolis, 2015)
  • Fan Fest at Minneapolis Convention Center: 76,560
  • Tip-Off Tailgate: 200,000 (usually 120,000 to 140,000)
  • Credentialed media: 2,442 (all-time record)
  • Metro Transit recorded an all-time single-day light rail ridership record of 130,896 on Championship Monday.

“It was one for the ages,” Mortensen declared.

Bickerstaff and Fan Jam Project Manager Alexy Rudolph were two Black females on the MLOC senior administration staff.  

“I moved here in 2017 to work on this project,” Bickerstaff, who is from the D.C.-Maryland area, told the MSR. “I had an opportunity to make a mark and to be able to come in and lead a team and build this organization with Kate.”

Rudolph, a Michigan native, added, “Fan Jam was such a unique thing. We are letting the NCAA know how [it] went, how innovative it was to the area here, and give hard statistics and numbers.” The Fan Jam traveling program made appearances at events in all 13 Minneapolis wards and at more than 60 events total since last summer and in the months leading up to the Final Four.

“It was a great experience to be here…and really understand what it takes to put on an event” such as the Final Four, Rudolph added. 

Bickerstaff and Rudolph both will help assemble an MLOC final report: “We are now evaluating the whole process,” Mortensen noted. “We are still paying bills and are working with the Met Council liaison for small and underutilized businesses” on reporting the results, she stressed.

“It’s a matter of looking at every bill we ever paid, every vendor we ever hired, every decision we ever made with every dollar… We must do a little more check and double check.”

The two Black women will soon return to their home states to look for their next opportunity, hopefully in sports. “I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Rudolph said.

“We feel the city is shining and just beaming” from hosting the Final Four, Mortensen concluded. “We were just delighted to see our city shine.”

WNBA still gets no respect

The WNBA still remains the Rodney Dangerfield of pro sports. Only we W followers seem to care.

If it was one of the men’s pro leagues, more talk, among other things, would be about why the W presidency remains vacant since Lisa Borders resigned last fall. Some stars still are unsigned. Dallas’ Liz Cambage’s trade request still is not met. What’s the status of the CBA negotiations? 

Training camp for all 12 teams starts in a few days, and the 2019 regular season will begin later this month.