HOUSTON – The City of Houston has been named one of seven finalist cities to host a future Women’s Final Four, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee announced today. The process to identify the Final Four locations for 2017-2020 will conclude in November 2014 for both men’s and women’s championships.
“This is a tremendous win for Houston,” Harris County – Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Schmees Burke said. “We are ready to take this bid all the way and bring the Women’s Final Four to the Toyota Center.”
Houston’s bid committee has partnered with Texas A&M University as the host institution for the bid proposal in cooperation with the University of Houston and Rice University. In addition to being the 2011 NCAA National Champion in women’s basketball, Texas A&M has hosted NCAA First and Second Round games at Reed Arena in College Station from 2012-14. The City of Houston will pull from its experience in hosting the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2011 and 2016 at Reliant Stadium.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the City of Houston and the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority to bring a future NCAA Women’s Final Four to our State,” Texas A&M University Athletic Director Eric Hyman commented. “We’ve experienced a great amount of success in our women’s basketball program at Texas A&M including winning the 2011 NCAA Championship. Part of our commitment to women’s basketball at Texas A&M is hosting championships and we are excited for our student-athletes, coaches, and fans to be a part of this bid process.”
Additional finalist cities under consideration to host a Women’s Final Four during the 2017-20 bid cycle are Columbus, Dallas, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Of that list, only New Orleans (1991, 2004 and 2013) and Tampa Bay (2008) have hosted previously. Nashville will serve as host of the 2014 Women’s Final Four, while Tampa Bay will host again in 2015. Indianapolis will host the event in 2016. Should Houston be awarded a year in the bid cycle, it would mark the first Women’s Final Four appearance in the Bayou City.
“Two of our most successful Women’s Final Fours were played here in Texas,” Gary Blair, Texas A&M University Head Women’s Basketball Coach said. “Playing the Women’s Final Four in Houston where exceptional high school basketball is played only enhances the experience of young people and their families achieve dreams by attending a Women’s Final Four in person. Houston and the Toyota Center is the perfect venue. We need 18,000-20,000 seat arenas filled for our sport which makes the Toyota Center perfect. Houston is a championship city. We have great weather and even better hospitality. I just hope people will consider Houston as a central location for the Women’s Final Four.”
“The amount of interest for the Women’s Final Four was considerable, making it extremely difficult for the committee to narrow the focus to the seven cities making the finalist list,” said Anucha Browne, NCAA vice president for women’s basketball. “As America’s marquee women’s sporting event, these cities understand the importance of the Women’s Final Four and will work to make it shine in their respective communities.”
Completed bids are due in May, with the respective committees and staffs spending the summer reviewing each bid before making site visits to each finalist city in August, September and October. Representatives from each finalist city will make in-person presentations to the respective committees during their annual fall meetings in early November 2014 in Indianapolis, followed by the announcement of the winning bids later that month.
Prospective Final Four bid cities had until mid-October to submit a declaration of intent to bid, a draft budget, hotel rates and confirmation of adherence to the NCAA’s bid specifications by mid-November. The men’s and women’s basketball staffs and select committee members met with representatives of each city’s host committee last month and updated the men’s and women’s basketball committees at meetings in San Diego earlier this month. When evaluating prospective hosts, the committee will review each city’s competition venue, transportation and lodging, and the region’s overall commitment to the event. For the Women’s Final Four, venues must hold a minimum of 18,000 fans, and host cities or regions must be able to provide at least 10,000 full-service hotel rooms within reasonable proximity to the competition venue.