By Laura Newpoff – Staff reporter, Columbus Business First
When the NCAA Women’s Final Four rolls into town at the end of March, it will be one of the largest sporting events in the city’s history by several metrics.
In terms of prestige, it’s right up there with the NHL All-Star game held at Nationwide Arena in 2015. And in a way, it’s bigger. After all, the basketball tournament features a championship game, not just an exhibition.
But it’s also a big deal because it represents the top-tier of sporting events that Columbus can lure. We don’t have a professional football, baseball or basketball team, there’s no chance to land a Super Bowl, Pro Bowl or All-Star game for those sports. (Who knows, the Blue Jackets could bring the Stanley Cup Finals to Columbus. Right?)
The Arena District played host to the early rounds of the NCAA men’s March Madness tournament in 2015. That was big, too.
But according to data from the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, the Women’s Final Four is expected to result in $25 million in direct visitor spending. That will come from 40,000 attendees, 30,000 of which will visit from out of town.
The All-Star weekend festivities brought 140,000 people into the Arena District, but just 10,000 of them were from out of town. The event resulted in $12 million in direct visitor spending.
Linda Logan, executive director of the Sports Commission, told me the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Columbus, “has been on our premier sporting events ‘aspirational list’ since 2000 and an event in the making for more than 10 years.”
Logan said the number of attendees, fan-generated spending and, “the 600 media credentialed and the national media exposure on ESPN from the three games that will be broadcast from Nationwide Arena will all raise Columbus’ profile on the American sports scene.
“We believe it will be a gift that keeps on giving and greatly magnify our ability to land more high-profile events in the future.”
The basketball championship will take an estimated 14,000 hotel room nights. Compare that to the 8,000 during the NHL All-Star weekend. There were 400 media credentials during that event.
The Sports Commission says the Women’s Final Four is the largest sporting event Columbus will have ever hosted that’s not a home-grown event, such as the Arnold Sports Festival. The Arnold draws about 200,000 attendees, about 75 percent coming from Ohio and surrounding states.
As we reported last week, 1,000 volunteers covering 2,500 shifts will be critical to the Final Four running smoothly and the city’s chance to land the tournament in the future.
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