Dallas to Host Women’s Final Four for the First Time

Dallas Women's Final Four|Dallas Women's Final Four
Much hype surrounding the Women’s Final Four in Dallas will center on the University of Connecticut. But Dallas Sports Commission Executive Director Monica Paul is looking closer to home. As the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament begins this week, Paul admits she’s hoping at least one in-state team makes it to Dallas. Between Baylor and The University of Texas at Austin, there’s a decent chance Paul will get her wish. “We’re Big 12 country,” says Paul. “It would create an exciting atmosphere.” For more than a year, marketing the Final Four has been the name of the game for the commission. The effort began in earnest during last year’s Women’s NCAA Tournament regional finals at American Airlines Center, the same venue for the 2017 championship weekend. “The Women’s Final Four is not a guaranteed sellout from our point of view,” says Paul. “We have to lead the way in creating awareness.” Hosting a local team or two won’t hurt. On a national scale, Connecticut extending its 100-game-plus undefeated streak would only boost ratings. This is the first time Dallas will host the women’s championship, but it’s not new to women’s hoops. Dallas hosted the 2011 and 2016 NCAA regional finals, as well as the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship in 2013 and 2015. With a new city comes another change for the tournament: The final will be played on a Sunday instead of a Tuesday. Knowing the NCAA was moving the championship to the weekend was merely a bonus when vying for the Women’s Final Four, Paul says. “We were going to bid on it no matter what,” she admits. “The change makes it a little easier to market. Families or others in town may have to take off a little less work to attend.”

Dallas in Championship Mode

Paul says the city’s experience with other championships, including the 2014 Men’s Final Four and the 2011 Super Bowl, and the schedule change bode well for the event. Ticket sales are already ahead of schedule, she notes. The estimated economic impact is between $20 million and $30 million. The logistics of hosting the men’s and women’s basketball championships are similar, says Paul. But outside of transportation and filling hotel rooms, the events are quite different. For starters, Dallas is concentrating on different demographics. Families, seniors and the LGBT community will help drive attendance, not only to the games but also to ancillary activities like Tourney Town, a fan fest starting March 31. Other related events include youth clinics, a Play4Kay breast cancer fundraiser involving local police and firefighters, creation of a “Dream Court” in conjunction with the Nancy Lieberman Foundation, and literacy programs for children. “It’s more than two days of a competition,” says Paul. The Women’s Final Four is another feather in the cap for the Dallas Sports Commission. During the same weekend in 2016, Dallas hosted WrestleMania, a $170 million mega-event. After watching Roman Reigns and other grapplers compete on a Sunday, Paul and her team flew to Indianapolis to scout the final days of the 2016 Women’s Final Four. Similarly, Paul is planning to hustle to catch the men’s basketball final in Phoenix the day after the women’s event ends. Paul anticipates the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours will be up for bid again soon. When they are, the Dallas Sports Commission will be ready. “Our goal is to host one major event each year,” Paul says.