The Twin Cities’ busy sports schedule in the coming years got much, much busier Tuesday. The NCAA announced that the University of Minnesota will be the host school for women’s volleyball, wrestling and men’s gymnastics championships, along with more March Madness men’s basketball action.
In December 2018, Target Center will be the host site for the women’s volleyball Final Four — the first time Minneapolis will host the volleyball championships since the 1988 event at Williams Arena.
In March 2020, the wrestling championships come to U.S. Bank Stadium, the first time that event will be held in a football stadium since 1997 and the first in Minnesota since 1996 at Target Center.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament returns to Minneapolis in 2021 — two years after the Final Four arrives in 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium — for a Midwest Regional at Target Center.
And in 2021, men’s gymnastics titles will be won at the U’s Sports Pavilion.
“It’s very exciting when you can obviously sell to local recruits about the potential of playing in a Final Four, which is everybody’s dream,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said at a news conference Tuesday at TCF Bank Stadium. “We’ve already started doing that. Anybody who has been to U.S. Bank Stadium or who have seen [the renovations] that the Target Center is doing — those are places you’d want to play in. This is a special, special area for all sports. And it’s only a benefit to have everybody see how great our fans are all across the board. And obviously, for basketball it’s growing every single day. We’ll be able to use this in a big way in recruiting.”
Gophers volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon’s program has reached the Final Four two years in a row, so he’s looking forward to being able to win a championship in Minnesota next year as motivation for his players.
“It provides a significant advantage if you can play in a Final Four in your hometown,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a big deal. Certainly, this provides a wonderful framework for our program the next couple years.”
U.S. Bank Stadium will be the largest venue to ever host the NCAA wrestling championships.
“Most of the wrestling championships have been in arenas,” Gophers wrestling coach Brandon Eggum said. “Some of the other arenas, it’s tough to have the space you need with nearly 70 teams trying to warm up and [limited] locker room space. This will give us an amazing feel for our fans to watch but also our student-athletes to be supported in the right way.”
Previously announced Minnesota-hosted events were the men’s swimming/diving championships (March 2018 at the U), the women’s (Ridder Arena at the U) and men’s Frozen Four (Xcel Energy Center) events in March and April 2018, a women’s gymnastics regional (April 2018 at the U) and the men’s basketball Final Four (U.S. Bank Stadium, April 2019).
The NCAA initially planned on making Tuesday’s announcement in December, but the bid process was delayed after sites in North Carolina were questioned over the state’s controversial bathroom law. That bill was repealed March 30, putting the state back in the running for events.
In all, the U and the Twin Cities will partner to host nine NCAA championships and postseason events in the next five years.
The NCAA announced hosts and sites Tuesday for 83 championships in a variety of sports. The highlight of the previous bidding process was Minneapolis and U.S. Bank Stadium being awarded the 2019 Final Four. The U put a bid in for seven NCAA championship events in the most recent process, which included hosting another Frozen Four for men’s and women’s hockey after next year. It was awarded four.
The events will add to a busy national and global sports schedule for the Twin Cities. The headliner, the 52nd Super Bowl, arrives early next year on Feb. 4, 2018. Before that, the X Games come to Minneapolis this summer, and right after Super Bowl come the NCAA men’s and women’s Frozen Four events. The X Games return in the summer of 2018, and the NCAA men’s Final Four arrives the following April.
Minnesota sports fans could get a break from all this action sometime in the summer of 2021 ... maybe.