Colum­bus wins big in women’s tour­ney

NCAA Women’s Fi­nal Four a boon

The Columbus Dispatch - - Opinion -

The NCAA Women’s Fi­nal Four isn’t the big­gest sports event in Colum­bus this spring, but it’s got the po­ten­tial to make the big­gest im­pact.

Thanks to in­di­vid­u­als in and around the Greater Colum­bus Sports Com­mis­sion who have been plan­ning for more than a year, the col­lege-bas­ket­ball cham­pi­onship games and ac­tiv­i­ties to be held here Easter week­end have the mak­ings to cre­ate a le­gion of new ambassadors for the city.

It won’t be just the 80,000 fans ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in four days of events con­cen­trated from March 29 through April 1, with the Fi­nal Four games played that Fri­day and Sun­day. Much thought and ef­fort have gone also into how Colum­bus is branded both to vis­i­tors from out­side the area — an es­ti­mated 30,000 strong — and to how the area is de­scribed on ESPN ra­dio and tele­vi­sion broad­casts. The city’s art and fash­ion scenes will be fea­tured themes through­out.

And with the Big 10 Cham­pi­onship Lady Buck­eyes land­ing a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Women’s Tour­na­ment, there is a chance for the host team to ac­tu­ally play in the Fi­nal Four — some­thing that’s never been done be­fore.

Linda Lo­gan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the sports com­mis­sion, views the Fi­nal Four as "our Su­per Bowl,” and says it was 12 years in the mak­ing, with con­struc­tion of the Hil­ton Colum­bus Down­town help­ing win the bid.

One way this sports event is cre­at­ing last­ing in­flu­ence is through con­nec­tions the Colum­bus Lo­cal Or­ga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee has fos­tered with cen­tral Ohio or­ga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cated to is­sues in­volv­ing women and girls. They in­clude Women for Eco­nomic and Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment, the National Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Women Busi­ness Own­ers, Women’s Fund of Cen­tral Ohio, the Colum­bus Women’s Com­mis­sion, Girl Scouts, YWCA and Rul­ing Our eX­pe­ri­ences.

Monthly “Be­yond the Base­line” pro­grams be­gan in the fall to pro­mote women and girls’ lead­er­ship devel­op­ment. Speak­ers, net­work­ing and other pro­fes­sion­alde­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties will con­tinue with four days of Be­yond the Base­line events through tour­na­ment week­end for stu­dents and pro­fes­sion­als alike. Olympians, WNBA play­ers, sportscast­ers and health, fit­ness and fi­nan­cial ex­perts will be among those shar­ing ex­per­tise.

Some 2,500 Colum­bus City Schools stu­dents are ex­pected to en­joy the March 29 first day of free Tour­ney Town events in the Greater Colum­bus Con­ven­tion Cen­ter with bas­ket­ball con­tests, youth clin­ics, au­to­graph sign­ings and give­aways. Adults can catch the spirit as week­end events tip off in the Thurs­day Pick & Roll by vis­it­ing Short North shops and restau­rants to pick up chances to win Women’s Fi­nal Four prizes.

Colum­bus’ spe­cial ties to women’s bas­ket­ball will be high­lighted in events in­clud­ing a 20th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the former Amer­i­can Bas­ket­ball League Colum­bus Quest, with pre­sen­ta­tion of the team’s long-over­due 1998 cham­pi­onship rings on March 31 Su­per Satur­day Night in Na­tion­wide Arena. Colum­bus City At­tor­ney Zach Klein, a long-time NCAA women’s bas­ket­ball ref­eree, helped pitch the city to the NCAA as a Colum­bus City Coun­cil mem­ber in 2014, and his brother, Pa­trick Klein, is OSU Women’s Bas­ket­ball As­so­ciate Head Coach.

With the Women’s Fi­nal Four es­ti­mated to at­tract $20 mil­lion in vis­i­tor spend­ing while pro­mot­ing the city, Colum­bus is al­ready a win­ner.

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