Both tournaments in Mpls will draw thousands
The countdown is on, as a little more than five months remain before March Madness Big 10-style converges on downtown Minneapolis. Two conference teams will earn the NCAA automatic bid while others will also be vying to keep their season alive.
For the first time ever, both Big 10 postseason tournaments will be held in Minneapolis. Thousands of fans of 14 men’s and 14 women’s teams, plus assigned media and others, are expected to spend time and money here—or so organizers hope.
“These events are once in a lifetime,” Minnesota Sports and Events (MSE) President and CEO Wendy Blackshaw declared. “When are you going to get to see the premier Big Ten basketball players, many of whom are the premier in the country, other than at this tournament.”
Both Blackshaw and Andrea Graham, the co-executive director of Big 10 Basketball Tournaments, last week talked to the MSR after the conference’s media days, at the Timberwolves-Lynx downtown arena.
Civic boosters such as MSE and Meet Minneapolis, the city’s convention and visitors association, and others strongly believe that big-time events held downtown are critical for its economic recovery, especially after the pandemic.
At press time there was not available data on the economic impact of the Big Ten media event, but Graham, Blackshaw and others believe there was a small bump in demand for hotels from the media, players, coaches, league staff and other related personnel.
“Before the pandemic, it was at 90 percent capacity with hotels,” reported Blackshaw. “We are not even close to being back to that.”
Added Graham, “During the 2023 women’s tournament, our hotel occupancy was 89 percent higher than it had been in 2022. We’re hoping to do that again and break our own records. And then bringing the men’s here will just be something like we haven’t seen before, because they haven’t been here before. It’ll be really exciting.”
We asked both women if they think the two basketball tournaments will draw locals, especially non-sports fans, when they kick off next March. “We absolutely are actively working to draw a local crowd as well,” responded Graham.
“We’re working directly with the tournament or with the conference on making sure we have accessible pricing, not just to all sessions but single sessions, and we are working on group discounts and senior discounts.”
Said Blackshaw, “We will be announcing in the next couple months,” information on auxiliary events planned around the tournament. “We love the kind of events where it is accessible to everyone.”
“We are working very closely with the conference to ensure that we’re giving access to this tournament to as many members of our community as possible,” said Graham, “and not just targeting those who are flying in and the families of the players.”