University bidding to host another men’s Final Four

An estimated $44 million flowed through the Minneapolis area during the 2001 NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament, hosted at the Metrodome, and the city might see a similar dollar amount soon.

If the NCAA gives the go-ahead, the University could host another Final Four between 2013 and 2016.

Minneapolis, with the University playing host, is one of 10 finalist cities in a bidding process to hold the event during one of those years. Schools will send initial bids to the NCAA in June, and winners will be announced in November.

The other nine cities are applying for the five championships between 2012 and 2016, while the University is excluding 2012.

The University has hosted two Final Fours at the Metrodome in the past 18 years – experience Associate Athletics Director Marc Ryan said should play a big role in Minneapolis’ chances.

Since 1986, the University has hosted more than 50 NCAA championships, but “no other championship has that revenue component quite like men’s basketball,” Ryan said.

Although athletics officials feel good about their chances, using the Metrodome has raised some concerns, he said.

“There’s uncertainty with the facility,” Ryan said, “as it’s unknown whether the Metrodome will be renovated or replaced by the time the tournament would roll around.”

The Final Four-hosting process involves steps similar to the Olympic city selection process, Ryan added, as the NCAA visits the potential sites and weighs many factors.

The three major aspects are the facility, hotel room availability and ease of travel to and from the city, Dave Worlock, associate director for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, said.

The facility must seat 60,000, there must be 10,000 hotel rooms within about 20 miles and there must be an adequate number of flights coming to and from the city, Worlock said.

Though it probably won’t hinder Minneapolis’ chances, the committee that chooses the sites might have to look into the impact of the Northwest-Delta airline merger on flight patterns to Minneapolis, he said.

In explaining the importance of a city’s past experience hosting major events, Worlock said six of the 10 cities applying have hosted a Final Four before.

“Minneapolis did a great job; the folks at the University, the folks at the Metrodome, the whole city has done a wonderful job in the past and that’s certainly a consideration,” he said.

To obtain a Final Four bid, the host university must partner with facilities personnel and the city’s visitor and convention bureau, Dennis Alfton, Metrodome director of operations, said.

Metrodome officials work with University officials, a relationship that started a few years after the Metrodome opened in 1982, he said.

Despite questions surrounding the Metrodome and the fact that many contending cities have newer stadiums, a recent seating configuration increases Minneapolis’ chances, Alfton said.

“Now a lot of our seats are closer to the action versus some of the new facilities, which have been built up and out,” he said.

But starting next year, for example, the court in Detroit’s facility will be in the center of the arena, rather than in a corner.

The third party in the process to host the Final Four is Meet Minneapolis, a visitors association.

The association heads the process to secure hotel rooms and spaces for nonbasketball events during the Final Four, Vice President of Sales Kevin Lewis said.

Minneapolis should have a good shot, mainly because of the Metrodome’s proximity to hotels and the convention center where activities will occur, he said.

Although it can be tough to put a number on the economic impact of an event like this, Lewis said its benefits are undeniable.

“When you’re talking about 30,000 to 40,000 people coming to our area, you get the immediate economic benefit to the community of hosting an event like this,” he said.

Perhaps as important, however, is the media attention and the impression left on people who flock to a city when it hosts a Final Four, Lewis said.

“It puts us in a positive light for those that may be considering our area for a meeting or convention,” he said.

Next year, the University will host less-prominent first- and second-round matchups in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, to be played at the Metrodome.