City officials eager to explore more NCAA championship opportunities

Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 9:47pm

Nine months remain before the first NCAA Division I national championship comes to downtown Nashville.

While excitement builds for the Women’s Final Four next April, city officials hopes the women’s basketball championship offers Music City an opportunity to become a regular title town.

“I think we are now in a position that whatever the event is we can compete for it,” Mayor Karl Dean said recently. “There is just a good buzz about the city and we should not be afraid to talk about it.”

Scott Ramsey is doing much more than talking. As president of the Nashville Sports Council, Ramsey is taking a proactive approach into bringing more national championships to the city.

“We’re going to look at everything,” he said. “Then we’re going to try to weed through the ones we think we have the best chance to land and host successfully.”

A couple weeks ago, Ramsey traveled to Indianapolis, home of NCAA headquarters, for a national championship hosting symposium. On July 15, a bid portal will open with specific specifications for 82 of the NCAA’s 89 championships across Divisions I, II and III. Cities have until Sept. 16 to bid for more than 500 preliminary and final host sites for the 2014-15 through 2017-18 academic years. Bid sites would be awarded in December.

The deadline for men’s and women’s Final Fours sites for 2017, 2018 and 2019 won't be until May 2, 2014. Sites will be awarded fall 2014. In addition, no requests will be taken for Division I baseball, softball and Football Championship Subdivision championships — which already have hosting deals in place — and men’s and women’s golf. The 2012 Division I women’s golf championship was hosted at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin. 

“We want to make sure the NCAA is pleased with what we’re doing but we think we’re well equipped to be fine hosts,” said Beth DeBauche, commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference and co-chair of the Nashville Local Organizing Committee (NLOC) for the Women’s Final Four. “Our hope would be that when the NCAA thinks of hosting cities they think of Nashville, Tenn.”

Added Ramsey: “We’re certainly a very dynamic city that is certainly on the radar.”

Ramsey said the Nashville Sports Council is focused on bidding primarily for Division I national championships, including another Women’s Final Four and a Frozen Four, the national championship of men's ice hockey.

Basketball and Bridgestone Arena has been a successful partnership. The 20,000-seat venue hosted the second and third rounds of the NCAA men’s tournament in 2012. The Southeastern Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have also taken up shop, most recently this past March. The league’s men’s tournament will return in 2015, 2016 and 2019 and Ramsey has hopes of making Bridgestone Arena the primary site for the SEC. 
He said hosting a Men’s Final Four is not a possibility due to the NCAA’s 60,000-seat requirement. But he expects Nashville to be in the bidding for the early rounds along with the regional semifinals and finals.

Bringing the Division I men’s hockey championship to the South is not far-fetched. Bridgestone easily eclipses the 18,000-seat requirement. Plus, in 2012 Tampa became the first Southern city to host a Frozen Four.

“Given the growth and the success of the Predators over the years,” Ramsey said, “that committee has traditionally looked at a non-traditional site, which would be the Southeast a little bit. So I think that is an event we’re anxious to see more details on and to think about.”

Ramsey hesitated to say what other championships the city would bid for and said some of those decisions were dependent upon timing and resources. Some possibilities, based on facilities requirements, include soccer, cross country and wrestling.

Along with the Nashville Sports Council, the mayor’s office, ownership from the Predators and Bridgestone Arena, LP Field officials and leadership in the hospitality industry and at the Music City Center will collaborate on bidding decisions. Ramsey also said the city must be careful not to bid on events with dates that will coincide with the Country Music Marathon, Music City Bowl and SEC basketball tournaments.

“I think it is a chance to look at the big spectrum,” he said. “You want to make sure if you get an event that you can make it successful. If you start trying to spread yourself too thin sometimes and have an event doesn’t come off well, either operationally or from a funding or a sponsorship or resource standpoint, it really sets you back from a reputation as a host city.

“I think it is very important for us to be very strategic and deliberate as we think through the future schedule of events.”

4 Comments on this post:

By: courier37027 on 7/8/13 at 5:39

D1 baseball will stay in Omaha, but that won't stop Plaz and his yes men from pimpimg for a new baseball stadium here. As article says, football and men's basketball are in place. Plus the city's facilities are too small and too cold in winter to host the two big revenue sports championships. Stick with the occasional NCAA non-revenue bone tossed this way: golf, maybe cross country, on a good year softball.

Thirty years ago Mayor Fulton started bumping his gums about hosting Summer Olympic Games. The only thing louder than that thud sound was mockery and laughing at that ridiculous proposal. Then again, Die Hard Sports Fan will call every radio show saying, "Well if we don't build it first, they won't consider us." Meanwhile a super speedway in Lebanon sits empty.

By: PKVol on 7/8/13 at 7:36

courier37027 states "on a good year softball", did you even read the story?

"no requests will be taken for Division I baseball, SOFTBALL (my emphasis) and Football Championship Subdivision championships — which already have hosting deals in place"

I think the Frozen Four, basketball regionals and many other sports are a real possibility. I'd rather think positively rather than negatively like the previous comment.

By: joe41 on 7/8/13 at 7:38

We need a new baseball stadium regardless. Omaha has a baseball stadium just for NCAA baseball plus the Storm Chasers have their own stadium.


By: JeffF on 7/8/13 at 7:57

Omaha has two stadiums because the team did not want to be saddled with the same issues that have destroyed the Memphis team; an overly expensive, over-built stadium, in a downtown location nowhere near its family demographic. The Chasers (current name) built in the suburbs near the bedrooms of their fans. Omaha officials fought to put the Royals/Golden Spikes/whatevers into downtown in order to justify the expense and now are stuck with a stadium used for two weeks out of the year.

The PCL attendance figures as of yesterday more than show that new stadiums are just short-term fixes to a non-problem. The heady days of teams averaging 10K are long gone with no one even averaging 8k. The smart teams are the ones playing in affordable, and well placed, and/or paid-for stadiums. In the log run, downtown stadiums are just more expensive and end up hurting the organizations which live in them. Ask the Memphis team which averages 6,800 in a stadium which requires 10 thousand to break even.

I sure hope people are finished talking about the baseball-influenced renaissance of downtown Memphis thinking no one is looking at the truth around their bond defaults, roped off decks, and closed retail spaces.

BTW, Softball is off the table because it is owned by OKC like Omaha owns baseball. I used to think it was not fair until I made two trips to Omaha to watch Tennessee. Taking the CWS out of the only city that cares that much about a single event would be stupid.